Is my summary offense eligible for expungement?
The physical record of crimes that you have been charged with or convicted of is your criminal record. Employers who run a background check are searching your criminal record for any offenses. Expungement can help delete parts of your criminal record that are eligible for the process.
In Pennsylvania, summary offenses are minor crimes, initially heard and decided by a Magisterial District Justice. Not-traffic or criminal summary offenses include things like criminal mischief, first offense shoplifting, underage drinking, and disorderly conduct. Many violations of the Motor Vehicle Code such as illegal parking, going through a red light, and speeding are also classified as summary offenses. See 18 Pa.C.S. §106(c). Summary offenses are punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 90 days and a fine of up to $300.00. See 18 Pa.C.S. §106(c)(2).
Summary offenses can be expunged from a criminal background, whether the defendant was found guilty or plead guilty, as long as all terms of the sentence has been satisfied and the offender has been free from arrest or conviction for five years following disposition of the offense. See 18 Pa.C.S. §9122(b)(3)(i). The expungement of a summary offense can also be granted when the offender is 70 years old and has had no arrests for ten years following release from incarceration. See 18 Pa.C.S. §9122(b)(1). You are also able to expunge a charge that was dismissed, dropped, or if you were found not guilty. See 18 Pa.C.S. §9122(a)(1). Also, if you were under 18 years old at the time of the offense and you are now over 18, the offense can be expunged six months after paying your fine.
Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 490 outlines the procedure for obtaining an expungement in summary cases and details what information should be provided in both the petition for expungement and the proposed order. The forms currently being accepted by the Pennsylvania Courts can be found at the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania website; www.pacourts.us.
If the Court grants an expungement, an Order will be entered which directs all criminal justice agencies involved in your arrest and prosecution to destroy its records relating to that offense. You may represent that you have no criminal record, and the offense should not show up on a criminal background check. It is important to keep in mind that the expungement order does not apply to articles on the internet. Anyone using search engines could still find a reference to your arrest or conviction, even if it has been expunged from your record.
Having an offense on your record can have far-reaching consequences in your career, finding housing, obtaining a professional license or gun permit. The process can be time consuming, so it is important to start as soon as possible.