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Higbee & Associates, a national law firm

Pennsylvania Sealing FAQ Frequently Asked Questions

This page was designed to help our clients better understand our Pennsylvania Sealing service. You will find answers to the questions we are most frequently asked. If your question is related to eligibility requirements please take the free online eligibility test.

What is the difference between a sealing and expungement?

Both a sealing and an expungement in Pennsylvania allow you to deny that the case ever occurred, however neither fully destroys the record.  An expungement limits access to the case to the prosecuting agency and the Central Repository for investigatory purposes only.  A sealing limits access of the case only to the public.  This means that government agencies, licensing agencies, and private companies which fall under a licensing exception, can access the records even after it has been sealed.

The other difference between a sealing and an expungement is who is eligible for which one.  Expungements are limited to summary offence convictions, cases which were dismissed, and cases for which you received Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition.  Cases can also become eligible if you are over 70 years old.  Certain alcohol convictions are also eligible for expungement.  Sealings, however, are available to many second and third degree misdemeanors and ungraded offenses.  To determine your eligibility, please complete our free online eligibility test.

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Can the sealed Pennsylvania record still be used against me for a future conviction?

The prosecuting agency and the central repository in Pennsylvania (the Pennsylvania State Police) will keep records of a sealed offense and can use the record if you are ever arrested of another offense.

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Will my sealed Pennsylvania criminal record still show up on my background check?

Once sealed, all public agencies (such as the court, the prosecuting office, and the police agency or agencies involved) will seal your records. Consequently, neither the arrest or conviction record will appear on a commercial background check that reviews government records. However, your record will still show up on official criminal history reports, such as the ones used when you apply for state licensing.

However, commercial background check companies may take up to one year to update their records to reflect the sealing. We can expedite the updating of commercial background checks companies and reduce the time it takes from about one year to less than 14 days. See our Expedited Record Clearance Update for information on this important step.

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Do I have to disclose my case ever?

Once an arrest or conviction has been sealed, you can legally deny the existence of the offense unless it is to a government agency or involves state licensing. These exceptions can sometimes be quite broad, so ask us if you have any specific questions.

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Does my disposition of guilty or no contest matter?

No, your disposition does not matter. We can seal your conviction regardless of what you pled.

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What if I have multiple PA cases?

Multiple cases do not make you ineligible, however you must have been free from arrest or prosecution for 10 years following your conviction or final release from confinement or supervision, whichever is later. You also cannot have ever have been convicted of an offense punishable by imprisonment of more than two years (includes felonies and most misdemeanors), four or more offenses punishable by imprisonment of one or more years, simple assault under serction 2701(unless it is a third degree misdemeanor), sexual intercourse with an animal under section 3129, impersonating a public servant under section 4912, intimidating of witnesses or victims under section 4952, retaliating against a witness or victim under section 4953, intimidating/retaliation or obstruction of justice in a child abuse case under section 4958, or any case which requires sex offender registration.

If you meet the above requirements, then having multiple cases does not make you ineligible. Please take our free online eligibility test or contact us if you have any questions about your eligibility.

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Do I have to go to court?

No, we go for you. If the court requests your presence and you are unable to attend, then we will request for your presence to be excused.

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How long does the sealing process take?

We estimate that the process will take approximately four to five months. Cases can require less or more time depending on the facts of the case, whether the DA is agreeing or objecting, the age of the case, etc. We work on your case as fast as we can and assist the court and DA in anything they need to get your case heard.

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Can the sealing process be done faster?

The courts work on a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, the sooner you sign up, the sooner your case is heard and decided. If helpful, we will gladly write your employer or potential employer a letter letting them know we have reopened the case and are in the process of having your offense sealed.

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What happens after my case is sealed?

You will receive a court order sealing your conviction. The general public will no longer have access to the records, and state agencies will have more limited use for the records. Even after the case is sealed, it still is accessible to government agencies, licensing agencies, and private parties which fall under one of the licensing categories (such as Big Brother Big Sister or a domestic violence shelter).

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How do the agencies know the sealing was granted?

The court will send the granted order to the Central Repository which will then contact all criminal justice agencies which have record of the case to inform them that it has been sealed. A sealing does not destroy the records but rather limits access to the record.

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How long do records take to be updated?

The court updates the court records within 48 hours and the Central Repository may take up to 30 days to update their records.

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What if my case is denied?

If the case is denied, we evaluate the reason for the denial and determine the best way to proceed. If we do not believe that refiling would be successful or we recommend the person wait longer to refile, then there is the money back guarantee for certain services.

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What is the main reason that a request to seal is denied?

Cases are denied for the following reasons: (1) an inaccuracy in the court file, (2) an inaccuracy in the application, (3) the court does not believe it will be in the interest of society to grant you the sealing, (4) you violated your probation or have not paid all your fines, or (5) you or the offense is otherwise not eligible for sealing.

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Can I become a schoolteacher, nurse, or other occupation?

Pennsylvania law specifically does not prohibit state agencies from considering any conviction that has been sealed in deciding whether to issue a license, certificate, or registration. However, the sealed convictions alone cannot preclude the issuance of a license, certificate, registration, or permit (18 PA Code 9124). Furthermore, arrests that have not resulted in a conviction may not be considered, whether or not the arrest has been expunged.

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What if I want to become a police officer?

Your sealed arrests can still be considered if you apply to become a police officer. Having the offenses sealed should make it more likely to pass the required background checks, but there is no guarantee.

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Does sealing in PA help if I want join the military?

If you want to join the US military, then your record becomes a matter of federal law, not Pennsylvania state law. All branches of the military will want to know about your offenses, even if they have been expunged or sealed. There is still a risk of being discharged from the military if you don’t tell them and they later find out about your record. You should always disclose your conviction, but also mention that your case was taken before a judge and was deemed in the interest of justice to seal the record from public view.

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Will sealing clean up my DMV record?

No. A sealing will clear the criminal records that relate to the offense but not the DMV record.

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Will a sealing help with immigration?

Criminal violations may have severe consequences for immigrants, even if the crime is expunged/vacated/sealed. Even minor offenses such as petty theft can make someone deportable or inadmissible, while more serious offenses such as burglary may not have the same consequences. Since each case is unique, getting a case-by-case analysis tailored to your specific facts is imperative. To find out if your criminal conviction will impact your immigration case, contacting a qualified immigration attorney is vital. Our in-house immigration attorney is available to answer questions at 714-617-8395.

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Will my record prohibit me from visiting Canada?

If you have been convicted of minor offenses (including assault, dangerous driving, DUI, theft, shoplifting, unauthorized possession of firearms, possession of illegal substances, etc.) or indictable criminal offenses (including assault with a deadly weapon, manslaughter, etc.) you may be prohibited from entrance into Canada and further action will be required to find out whether you will be allowed entrance. The Canadian government has entered into an information sharing agreement with the United States, so the Canadian government will have whatever information the United States has on file. Therefore, the first thing you should do is clear your criminal record to the fullest extent possible before submitting to a background check. The benefit of sealing is that it will show the Canadian government that the matter was resolved and no longer considered a conviction and improve the odds of not being denied entry to Canada or being stuck at the border for lengthy interrogation. Even though it is our belief that Canada will still be able to see a sealed case, past clients have reported that Canada has allowed them entrance once they have received post-conviction relief, such as a sealing or an expungement.

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Will a sealing restore my right to own a firearm?

There is a separate process under Pennsylvania state law in which you can petition a court to restore your gun rights if they have been taken away. Getting a sealing does not automatically restore your gun rights. Furthermore, the majority of offenses eligible for a sealing do not result in firearm bans.
Note that under federal law there is a lifetime ban on gun ownership for all those convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense (as defined by the federal law). The federal definition is different than most state's definition, so your domestic violence conviction in Pennsylvania might not trigger the federal law. Again, getting a sealing will not automatically lift the federal ban if the ban applies to you.

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Can I vote after the sealing is granted?

In Pennsylvania, a person can register to vote the moment he is released from incarceration. You lose your right to serve on a jury if you have ever been convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year prison. This right can only be restored through a governor's pardon. You lose your right to hold public office (elected/appointed office) if you've been convicted of embezzlement of public money, bribery, perjury or “other infamous crime” (any felony basically). This, too, can only be restored through a governor's pardon.

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Who can serve on a jury in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, you may serve on a jury if you: 1) are able to read, speak, and write the English language, 2) have not been convicted of a crime that is punishable by imprisonment for more than one year unless you have been pardoned (42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 4502(a)(3)), 3) are physically and mentally able to perform the functions of a juror, 4) are a United States citizen at the time that you are summoned, 5) are a resident of the county by which you are summoned and are at least eighteen years of age. http://www.courts.phila.gov/juryservice/

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Will a sealing relieve me of the requirement to register?

No. An offense that requires sex offender registration would not be eligible for sealing. If you have to register as a sex offender, you cannot obtain a sealing on any of your cases.

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The first step towards a better life begins with finding out if you are eligible for Pennsylvania Sealing.

FREE Eligibility Test


Call us at Toll Free (877) 573-7273
Please take the free online eligibility test before calling.

Law Firm of Higbee & Associates
501 Cambria Ave., #332
Bensalem, PA 19020
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