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Expungements, Pardons, and Sealed Records

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Once a person is arrested, a criminal record is created.  Many people assume that the record will automatically be destroyed if the charges are dismissed or reduced. Many people incorrectly assume that a juvenile record will automatically be removed.  In Pennsylvania, the only way a criminal record can be completely cleaned is through expungement.

With an expungement, most summary convictions can be removed from your criminal record after five years.  It is important to note that many misdemeanor or felony convictions cannot be expunged. The only way to have non-expungeable misdemeanors or felonies removed is through a governor’s pardon. After a governor’s pardon has been granted, you can file for an expungement.

Pennsylvania’s Clean-Slate Record Sealing Law

On November 14, 2016, Pennsylvania created a way for certain individuals to get their criminal records sealed from public view. As of December 2018, more offenses are now eligible to be sealed. If you have been convicted of certain misdemeanors and 10 years have passed since you finished your sentence, you may be able to get your record sealed. Although a sealed record is not the same as getting an expungement, it helps people with prior convictions get a clean start for employment and housing purposes.

The 2018 Clean Slate Law has also made provisions to have records for some arrests that did not result in a conviction automatically sealed without having to file a petition. If you’ve been granted a governor’s pardon, your record will be automatically sealed.

If you would like to know if you are eligible to have an expungeable offense removed from your criminal record or to see if you are eligible to have your record sealed, fill out the form below for an Expungement and Clean Slate evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions about Expungements and Record-Sealing in Pennsylvania

Is anything ever automatically expunged?

In some counties, ARD cases are automatically expunged. If you are acquitted, your record will also be automatically expunged.

Is there a difference between a case being expunged and sealed?

Yes. When a record is expunged, that means that the record of the case is essentially destroyed. When a record is sealed, that means that access to the record is restricted.

If charges against me were dropped, will the charges be expunged?

Generally not. Under the current interpretation of the law, only an acquittal will result in an expungement. Everything else is just restricted.

If it’s been 10 years since my summary offense conviction, will there be an automatic expungement?

Generally not. The record will be sealed after 10 years, but it will still exist.