People make mistakes, and sometimes those actions result in criminal convictions.
Even though many people commit crimes when they are young and move on with their lives, they learn that those convictions can come back to haunt them when applying for jobs or graduate programs.
Fortunately, there are some options available for certain crimes that allow those convicted in the past to shield their records from the eyes of employers and other entities.
One option for removing crimes from one’s record is to have the crime expunged. Unfortunately, expunging a record in Pennsylvania only applies to summary offenses like traffic tickets, or when the defendant enters into an alternative disposition program that allows restitution at the end, like ARD or AMP.
Expunging a record means that the offense no longer appears on criminal databases, and the offense is cleared from law enforcement records as well. In juvenile cases, this is known as sealing the record.
Felonies and misdemeanors cannot be expunged under current law unless the individual applying for expungement is over 70 years old and has not committed an offense in the 10 years preceding the application for expungement.
In order to get a record expunged in Pennsylvania, the proper filing fee should be sent in with a petition. The procedure may not require a hearing, unless the prosecution opposes expungement, but in either scenario, it has to be approved by a judge.
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Having a crime pardoned is the equivalent of never being arrested or charged in the first place. Those who are granted a pardon have all records of the crime erased and no one can use the crime against the individual with regard to employment, housing, benefits, etc. If granted, a pardon provides a clean slate.
While it is not impossible to get a conviction pardoned, it is a difficult and drawn out process.
The application for a pardon requires collecting a massive amount of documentation and can be grueling without legal counsel. In order to apply, 5 years must have passed since the crime if it was a minor offense, and 10 years must have passed if it was a felony. The petitioner (the person asking for their record to be pardoned) must send in a money order and detailed information about the offense (e.g. the judge’s name, county, the date of the offense and the conviction, and other details) to the Board of Pardons.
There are no specific regulations that the Board of Pardons must follow for pardoning records. It is a discretionary process, meaning that the Board of Pardons has the ultimate authority to accept or reject the request based on their internal guidelines. The process takes a minimum of six months.
Shielding records from employers and others
In 2016, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a regulation that allows those convicted of offenses in the past to get some relief.
Under the new law, those convicted of misdemeanors punishable by no more than two years of jail (which includes most second and third degree misdemeanors) are eligible to have their records sealed if the conviction occurred more than 10 years ago and the individual has not been arrested for additional offenses.
The new law does not erase police records, however. This means that if the records are sealed under the new law and the individual is arrested in the future, the previous arrest can still be used against them for sentencing and other purposes.
The law does, however, restrict the conviction from appearing in criminal databases such as the ones used by employers, schools, and similar entities. This is a great option for those who committed crimes when they were young, but have since changed their lives and avoided further run-ins with the police.
Some people will still have to reveal their convictions
Even if a person is successful in having their record sealed, they may have to disclose their arrest or conviction under certain circumstances.
For example, individuals who are attempting to obtain government clearances, work with children, or be admitted to some state-regulated professions, such as lawyers or doctors, may still have an obligation to disclose their crimes despite having their records sealed, expunged, or pardoned.
The internet never forgets
Unfortunately, individuals who commit newsworthy crimes, such as murder, assault, or crimes against children, may continue to face discrimination by employer and the public for their crimes due to articles, blogs, and updates being posted online.
Government entities responsible for sealing records have no control over third parties who post news stories or crime bulletins. Those who have had their records sealed, expunged, or pardoned may have to contact those sites directly to have their names cleared.
Contact The Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC for Assistance
Being convicted of a crime in the past should not prevent citizens from obtaining jobs, education, and housing. If you or a loved one is suffering from the consequences of a past conviction, contact our offices today so we can explore the details of your case and work on your behalf to shield your record.