What is an expungement?
According to Pennsylvania Law, 18 Pa.C.S. § 9122, under limited circumstances individuals may obtain permission to remove criminal records from the files of the Department of Court Records, Criminal Division, and other criminal justice agencies.
Why should a record be expunged?
There are many reasons why a person may want to expunge criminal records. For example, a background check such as an Act 33/34 clearance will produce details of criminal cases that might affect future employment opportunities, the ability to be bonded or to obtain a gun permit. All criminal cases remain a matter of public record until a motion for expungement has been filed in the Department of Court Records, Criminal Division, and is granted by an order of court from the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County.
What records are expungeable?
Prior to Act 134 of 2008, only non-convictions could be expunged, regardless of severity of the offense or the punishment. Non-convictions include verdict of not guilty; dismissal; withdrawal of charges, or nolle prosequi; Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition; or Probation Without Verdict pursuant to the Controlled Substances Act.
The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD), Probation Without Verdict and Allegheny Service Institute (ASI) programs offer expungement as part of the plea bargain package. For ARD and Probation Without Verdict (PWV), an expungement for a first time offender is filed automatically by the Allegheny County Department of Adult Probation when all fines and costs have been paid and the defendant successfully completes all of the terms and conditions of the program. For ASI, the individual who completes the program must file a motion with the Department of Court Records, Criminal Division and pay the filing fee. NOTE: A Motion to Expunge was not filed automatically by the Department of Adult Probation for ARD participants prior to 1990. Therefore, a defendant who completed ARD prior to 1990 must file a motion to expunge.
The passage of Act 134 now allows for the expungement of a conviction for a Summary offense provided the defendant has been free of arrest or prosecution for five (5) years following the conviction for that offense.
How to begin the expungement?
Call or visit the Department of Court Records, Criminal Division to receive the standard forms necessary to file a petition. The motion must be legibly written or typed.
How can I determine whether a criminal record exists or has been expunged?
After the judge grants an expungement, the Department of Court Records, Criminal Division, eliminates all non-conviction data from its physical case files and electronic database and notifies the appropriate criminal justice agencies, such as Adult Probation, Behavior Clinic, Bureau of Criminal Investigations, District Attorney, Magisterial District Judge, the Pennsylvania State Police, Allegheny County Jail, Arresting Agency, and Sheriff. It may take up to one (1) year for the expungement process to be completed after a judge signs an Order of Expungement.
You can search for criminal records in the Unified Judicial System.