How Do I Get an Expungement for a Felony in Pennsylvania?

By Jill Harness - Updated August 06, 2018
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An expungement can erase a conviction from your criminal record, making it easier to apply for jobs, housing or anything else that may require a background check. Unfortunately, getting a record expungement in PA isn't an option for most people convicted of a felony. In fact, you can only get an expungement for a felony if you are over 70, already received a pardon or if you are trying to obtain one for someone else who is now deceased. The expungement process in PA is difficult and can take years to complete, but it can be worth it to clear negative marks from your record.

Tip

Only those over 70, deceased or pardoned can receive a felony expungement in Pennsylvania.

Requirements for Felony Expungement in PA

To obtain an expungement in Pennsylvania, a convict must be over 70 and not have been arrested or charged with a crime in the previous 10 years; be deceased for at least three years; or have already received a pardon from the governor.

Misdemeanor Record Sealing

In the past, even most misdemeanor records could not be expunged or sealed in Pennsylvania, but a 2018 law allows far more people to seal their records than before. In fact, most nonviolent misdemeanors are now automatically sealed 10 years after a person has served all terms of his sentence.

It is important to recognize that this automatic record sealing is not an expungement where the criminal record is destroyed and completely purged from the system. Instead, the law allows the records to be sealed, which prevents them from showing up on most background checks, like those performed by landlords and employers, although the records are still available for law enforcement and courts to view.

Not all misdemeanors qualify under the law for automatic record sealing. To qualify, you must have been convicted of a second- or third-degree misdemeanor; be free from arrest or conviction for the last 10 years; and you cannot have one felony, two first-degree misdemeanors or four second-degree misdemeanors on your record. Additionally, some crimes are excluded from the law, generally because they are violent or sexual in nature, such as those involving firearms or indecent exposure.

If you committed a first-degree misdemeanor or do not meet the requirements for automatic record sealing, you can request a judge to seal your record or you can seek an expungement if you meet the same requirements as those who have felony convictions. That being said, those with either felony or misdemeanor sex crimes on their records are unlikely to have their records expunged or sealed, and sex crimes against minors cannot be expunged or sealed at all under state law.

Juvenile Offenses

Pennsylvania felony expungement law allows most juvenile offenders to have their records expunged after they have turned 18, as long as five years have elapsed since their last arrest or conviction, and six months have passed since the end of their sentence.

Expungement Process in PA

If you, or a deceased person you represent, meet the necessary requirements, you can file a petition for expungement with the court. The first step is to obtain your criminal record as you will need this to fill out the application. Once you have your complete criminal record, fill out the application and submit it to the court. After you file the petition, you will be assigned a court date. At the hearing, the judge will determine how the conviction might damage your reputation, how it may affect your livelihood or future earnings capacity, the offense itself, your prior criminal record, and whether the record should be preserved in the interest of the public. If the judge approves your request, she will issue an expungement order.

About the Author

Jill Harness is a legal blog writer with experience creating SEO-based content for attorneys in a variety of practice areas. Her work has earned the #24 spot on Feedspot's list of the top 75 criminal law blogs. You can find out more about her experience and how to contact her through her website, www.jillharness.com.

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