EXPUNGEMENT OF CRIMINAL RECORDS IN PENNSYLVANIA

By William E. Moore, Esquire

Historically, expungements in Pennsylvania have been limited to juveniles and those adults who receive a non-conviction disposition (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD), Section 17 and not guilty or dismissal of charges.)

Juveniles can have their records expunged or destroyed if the allegations are not proven by the prosecution, if the petition is dismissed by the court, or if the case is resolved by a Consent Decree or Informal Adjustment. Rule 170 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Juvenile Court allow for an expungement 6 months after completion of the Consent Decree or Informal Adjustment. A juvenile who has been found delinquent and placed under supervision may still qualify for an expungement of his record. The most common form is a Plea Agreement with the District Attorney who agrees to the expungement. Otherwise, 5 years must have elapsed and there are no subsequent adjudications for a felony or misdemeanor offense. However, there are certain serious crimes which will not qualify for expungement.

The most common request for adult record expungements occur for acceptance into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program (ARD) or probation without verdict (Section 17). ARD is frequently granted for first time DUI's when there have been no injuries or egregious conduct occurring during the arrest. A Section 17 pertains to a section of the Drug Device and Cosmetic Act which governs all drug offenses in Pennsylvania. Under Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 320, an individual may file a Petition for Expungement of his record after having completed all the requirements of his ARD Program. Likewise, after an individual has successfully completed the requirements of his probation without verdict (Section 17), he can obtain an expungement of his criminal record pursuant to Section 780-119 of the Drug Act.

Following the completion of an ARD received following a DUI, an individual may petition to have his record expunged. However, the receipt of the ARD stays on PennDot's driving abstract for a period of 10 years. Following the 10 year period, pursuant to Section 1543(c) of the Vehicle Code, PennDot shall remove the record from the driving history. If the individual's license has been revoked pursuant to the habitual offender statute or at the time of the DUI the individual was driving a commercial vehicle, then PennDot is not required to expunge the record.

Pursuant to Section 9122 of the Crimes Code, an individual can obtain an expungement of his criminal history if there has been no disposition of the charges within 18 months after the date of arrest and there is no pending action. A person may also obtain an expungement if he has been found not guilty or the charges were withdrawn. An individual who has been convicted of a summary offense of Underage Consumption, Possession, or Transportation of Alcohol may obtain an expungement following his 21st birthday.

A summary conviction may be expunged if the individual has remained free of arrest or prosecution for 5 years following the conviction of that summary offense. A person may also obtain an expungement of his criminal record if he has reached the age of 70 or the individual who is the subject of the information has been deceased for 3 years.

Recently, there has been an expansion of the ability to preclude access to one's criminal records. The new Act, which is known as Senate Bill 166 from the Session of 2015, is referred to as the new "Expungement Law". However, it is not an expungement law but rather a limited access provision. The purpose of the Act is to restrict law enforcement from providing criminal history record information to an individual or non-criminal justice agency.

An individual may petition the court to limit his criminal record to only a criminal justice agency or government agency so long as the individual has been free of conviction for a period of 10 years following his final release from supervision and the conviction for which he seeks to limit access is a Misdemeanor of the Second Degree, a Misdemeanor of the Third Degree, or an ungraded offense which carries a maximum penalty of no more than 2 years. Although this will not expunge the convictions, it will limit access to an arrest and conviction history for non-criminal justice agencies.

Most of these expungement provisions provide the District Attorney an opportunity to object to the expungement and request a court hearing to determine whether or not the petition will be granted. If an individual wants to obtain information concerning his eligibility for expungement, I recommend he contact an attorney to advise him.