Can I have a felony or misdemeanor conviction or guilty plea expunged from my criminal record?
For practical purposes, the answer is no, but there are two exceptions to the general rule. The first exception is that if a person is 70 years old and has been free of arrest and prosecution for ten years following final release from confinement or court supervision. The second exception is if the person has been dead for three years. Obviously, the exceptions to the general rule that misdemeanor and felony convictions cannot be expunged are not very helpful or useful to most people. The Pennsylvania legislature did amend section 9122 relatively recently to allow for the expungement of convictions of summary offenses, but the amendment did not create exceptions for the expungement of either misdemeanor or felony convictions.A person with a misdemeanor or felony conviction must first seek a pardon of the conviction from the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons. If a person is able to receive a pardon, then the conviction is set aside, and expungement of the charge can be sought.
How can a judge deny my expungement request when the law says that I am eligible for expungement?
Expungement eligibility does not mean that an expungement is mandatory. If a person is eligible to have a charge expunged, the person must file an expungement petition with the Clerk of Courts or Prothonotary in the county in which the case was filed. Eligibility is needed to be able to file an expungement petition and thereby have a judge consider the request. Most expungements are discretionary, meaning a judge has to consider various factors and determine whether or not to grant the expungement request. Most expungements are not mandatory, meaning a person is generally not entitled to have a dismissed or withdrawn charge expunged. Important factors that the court considers are the precise manner in which the charge was resolved, the reason for that resolution, the district attorney's precise argument for opposing the expungement, and the petitioner's reason for requesting an expungement.
Can a charge of Underage Drinking be expunged from the records?
Generally, a charge of Underage Drinking can be expunged under two subsections of section 9122 of the Crimes Code. One subsection allows for the expungement of "non-conviction" data, meaning charges that have been dismissed, withdrawn, or the person was found not guilty. The other subsection allows the expungement of convictions and guilty pleas of Underage Drinking after the person has turned 21-years-old and successfully completed the sentence.If the charge is dismissed or the person is found "not guilty," then expungement of the criminal records can be sought immediately. Such an expungement is discretionary with the court, and the court considers the reason for the judge's dismissal of the charge. If the person was found not guilty of Underage Drinking, then it is extremely unlikely that a judge would deny the expungement request.
Can I have a conviction or guilty plea to a summary offense expunged?
Section 9122 of the Crimes Code allows for the expungement of summary offenses IF the person "has been free of arrest or prosecution for five years following the conviction for that offense." Basically, if a person has stayed out of trouble for five years, he or she is eligible to have a summary conviction expunged. Again, eligibility simply allows a person to file an expungement petition, and to have a judge consider the request and render a decision. The expungement law expressly provides that such criminal history "may" be expunged, meaning a judge may deny the request. Important factors that the court considers are the district attorney's precise argument for opposing the expungement and the petitioner's reason for requesting an expungement. After considering the various factors, the judge makes the ultimate decision regarding whether or not an expungement is appropriate under the circumstances.
Additional resources provided by the author
For additional information about the expungement law in Pennsylvania, contact State College criminal defense lawyer Jason S. Dunkle.
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