People call us all the time about a minor offense committed many years ago that keep showing up on background checks. These “minor” offenses sometimes resulted in a prison sentence, but more often resulted in just probation and a fine.
The calls we receive go something like this: “I interviewed for a new job. I did really well in the interviews. They really liked me and made me an offer subject to a clean background check. But a misdemeanor from 20 years ago when I was 19 years old popped up and they withdrew the offer. How can I get this off my record? It’s so old; I was so young; and I only got probation anyway.”
The problem is that in Pennsylvania the law makes it hard to forget the mistakes we made when we were young. The law permits the expungemnt of summary convictions and some _other offenses for which ARD was successfully completed. (ARD is a diversion program for first time non-violent offenders which does _not result in a conviction.) All other convictions can be expunged only under limited circumstances. Here’s what the statute says about those other convictions:
(b) Generally.–Criminal history record information may be expunged when:
(1) An individual who is the subject of the information reaches 70 years of age and has been free of arrest or prosecution for ten years following final release from confinement or supervision.
(2) An individual who is the subject of the information has been dead for three years.
(3)(i) An individual who is the subject of the information petitions the court for the expungement of a summary offense and has been free of arrest or prosecution for five years following the conviction for that offense.
(ii) Expungement under this paragraph shall only be permitted for a conviction of a summary offense.
So, unless your 70 years old (and free from arrest for 10 years) or dead (for 3 years) or your conviction was for only a summary offense (and you have been free from arrest for 5 years), you cannot get your conviction expunged. It’s harsh and perhaps unfair, but i’ts the law in Pennsylvania.
What’s the takeaway? You must fight all allegations great or small – from the beginning. You cannot wait until after the case has resulted in a conviction to begin worrying about how the allegations will affect your job prospects and your life.