When a resident is convicted of a crime, they will incur a criminal record that will generally follow them the rest of their life. This could make it difficult for a person to secure housing, obtain a job or do any other activities that require a background check. However, in some circumstances, it may be possible for one to have their criminal record expunged.
In general, when a criminal record is expunged, details on the person's arrest, charge or conviction are essentially erased. Here, to expunge a criminal record, the person must file a certain petition with the Court of Common Pleas in the county where the crime took place. The petition needs to contain certain identification information, the relevant criminal charges, the case docket and tracking numbers and the disposition of the case. If any one piece of required information is not included on the petition, it will be rejected even if it otherwise had merit.
After the correct petition is filed, a hearing will be held. At the hearing, the judge will consider how the criminal record has affected the person's reputation, including their ability to obtain a job; the severity of the offense; whether the person had committed a crime in the past; and if it is in the public's interests to preserve the person's criminal record. Keep in mind that certain crimes, such as sexual offenses against children, cannot be expunged. Also, DNA records can only be expunged under very limited circumstances.
It may seem harsh that a person should have to live with the burden of having a criminal record, even after they have served their sentence for the crime committed. Fortunately, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania recognizes this, and allows a person to move the court for an expungement in certain circumstances. But, whether an expungement will be granted is very complex and fact-specific. Therefore, those seeking an expungement may want to consult with a criminal defense professional, so they can learn what their options are and how to proceed with an expungement if appropriate.