Pennsylvania offers expungement or removal of an arrest or conviction from your record under several circumstances, most commonly when the arrest hasn’t resulted in a conviction, when you’ve committed a single minor offense, when you’ve completed the requirements of an alternate sentencing program in lieu of a conviction, or when your offense was committed as a juvenile and you’re now an adult who hasn’t re-offended.
The specific process to expunge a criminal record will depend on the circumstances of your underlying arrest or conviction. But generally, there are some common steps you’ll need to complete. Getting an expungement can depend on to a degree upon legal technicalities and making sure the right forms are filled out in the right way.
The attorney who represented you in your arrest or trial should be able to help you through the expungement process, or if you didn’t previously have an attorney a Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer with experience handling expungements can represent you through the process and make sure your rights are protected.
Get Your Records
Before you can apply for an expungement, you’ll need a copy of the arrest or court records for your offense. If your case went to court, you’ll need the complete docket sheet. You can usually get this from the Clerk of Court for a small fee for the photocopy. Some information may be available online at http://ujsportal.pacourts.us/.
If your arrest or conviction was in Pittsburgh or Allegheny County, you can get your court records from:
Department of Court Records, Criminal Division
Allegheny County Courthouse
436 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Pennsylvania State Police Central Repository – 164
1800 Elmerton Avenue
Harrisburg, PA 17110-9758
File A Petition To Expunge A Criminal Record
Once you have your records, you need to fill out a petition for expungement. In Allegheny County, you can get the form from the Department of Court Records, Criminal Division at the address above. Complete the form, attach your records, and file it with the Criminal Division. You’ll have to pay a filing fee. A copy also must be provided to the district attorney.
A criminal defense attorney can help you complete and file the form to ensure everything is done in accordance with the rules. Any error or omission could result in denial of your request for an expungement.
Once your petition is filed, the court will consider your request. This might take some time, but once the court approves an order will be issued removing the arrest or conviction from your record.
Why Get an Expungement?
An expungement removes potentially damaging arrests or convictions from your record. Once your expungement is approved, the arrest or conviction will no longer show up on background checks when you apply for a job or to rent an apartment. Otherwise, a criminal record can be an obstacle in a number of ways, inhibiting not only your prospects for employment or housing, but some convictions may affect your ability to pursue higher education, your immigration status, your professional licensing, or your custody of your children.
If you have an offense you’d like to have expunged from your record, an experienced Pittsburgh defense lawyer can discuss whether that might be an option for you.