Although misdemeanor and felony convictions may not be expunged (erased from public record) until the person who was convicted “reaches 70 years of age and has been free from arrest for 10 years” or “has been dead for 3 years,” it is much easier to expunge a summary conviction. Such offenses can include harassment, disorderly conduct, public intoxication and underage drinking. Such convictions often show up in criminal background checks and can be a source of embarrassment for job applicants who mistakenly thought that what happened in college would remain there after graduation.
After many years of having to advise clients that their summary convictions could not be expunged, we now have some good news. As a result of an amendment to 18 Pa.C.S.A. Section 9122 in January 2009, the summary conviction you might have received several years ago can be expunged when you have been “free of arrest or prosecution for five years following the conviction.” The expungement does not happen automatically (like it should after successful completion of ARD). If you have not been in any trouble for 5 years and you want your record expunged, you must petition the court.
There is even better news for young people convicted of underage drinking. You don’t have to wait 5 years to have your record expunged. You only have to be 21 or older and have satisfied all terms and conditions of your sentence, including any suspension of your driver’s license. This exception to the general rule for expungement of summary convictions is written right into the law.
If you have a summary conviction on your record in Pennsylvania and you think you might qualify for expungement, we would be pleased to help you. It might spare you unnecessary embarrassment when you apply for that dream job.