In Pennsylvania, your criminal record may be expunged -- that is, erased or sealed -- under the circumstances described below. If your record is expunged, it will no longer be visible to the general public, including potential employers. In most cases, you may say that you were never arrested or convicted of a crime.
If You Were Not Convicted of a Crime
If you were arrested but no disposition of your case was recorded within 18 months and there are no pending criminal proceedings against you, you may ask to have the arrest record expunged. (18 Pa. C.S.A. § 9122.)
If You Were Convicted of a Crime
Offenses resolved through an ARD program. If you successfully completed an ARD (Accelerative Rehabilitative Disposition) program for a crime other than a sex crime against a minor, your criminal record should qualify for expungement. (234 Pa. Code Rule 320; 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 9122.)
Offenses related to the purchase, consumption, or possession of alcohol. If you were 21 or older when you were convicted of a violation of Section 6308 and you have successfully completed all the terms of your sentence, you may petition to have the related record expunged. (18 Pa. C.S.A. § 9122.)
Other offenses. A criminal record may qualify for expungement if:
- you committed a summary offense (a low-level offense that's usually punished by a fine and/or no more than 90 days in jail) and at least five years have passed since the time of any criminal proceedings against you
- you are at least 70 years old and ten or more years have passed since the time of any criminal proceedings against you, or
- the subject of the record has been dead for at least three years.
(18 Pa. C.S.A. § 9122.)
How to File
You must file a petition for expungement in the court that has jurisdiction over the criminal record; this will most likely be the Court of Common Pleas in the county where the offenses were committed.
Getting Legal Help
Cleaning up a criminal history can be complicated. If you are not sure whether your record qualifies for expungement in Pennsylvania -- or for advice about your personal situation -- you should contact a qualified criminal law attorney. A good lawyer can guide you each step of the way.