Expungement, or "setting aside a criminal conviction," effectively erases an individual's criminal record to the public. When a record is expunged, information regarding arrests or convictions is not available in background checks. If you successfully expunge your record, when you apply for a loan, an apartment, or a job, the offense does not legally have to be disclosed.
However, law enforcement, the courts, and certain other government agencies can still access and consider an expunged conviction. Expungement does not apply in immigration or deportation proceedings or if you commit a crime after an expungement. Sealed records provide proof of a prior conviction, and they may be considered in sentencing.
New bill could make obtaining an expungement easier
A bill that recently received unanimous support in the state Senate could make it easier for Pennsylvania residents with minor criminal records to access education, employment, and other opportunities. If the bill becomes a law, it would allow those who have committed misdemeanors or been arrested without a subsequent conviction to have their records expunged after ten years as long as they haven't been arrested or charged with a crime during that time.
Under the legislation, violent offenders and those charged with crimes such as indecent exposure, corruption of minors, animal cruelty, or weapons offenses would not be allowed to have those convictions expunged.
The benefits of expungement
Legislators are optimistic that, if this bill becomes law, it will make it easier for the more than one-third of Pennsylvania residents with criminal records to better their lives. Most of these records involve misdemeanors, arrests or crimes for which they were never convicted. If people in this population demonstrate that they've turned their lives around, they can wipe the slate clean, opening doors to education and employment that might otherwise be closed to them.
Too often, decades-old arrests and criminal offenses follow people after a conviction, making it difficult to secure well-paying jobs. By easing the process to obtain an expungement, more people may be able to put their former criminal records behind them.