Can I seal my record in Pennsylvania?
Seal a Pennsylvania Record – Order for Limited Access Eligibility
A criminal record can prevent a person from getting a job, so many people want to know if they can get rid of a record through an expungement or sealing of the record. In Pennsylvania, a person convicted of a misdemeanor offense normally cannot obtain an expungement of the records. The next best thing to an expungement is to have the record sealed from public view, which requires a person to obtain an Order for Limited Access. Orders for Limited Access are not granted upon the need of a person, meaning a person cannot simply file a petition or document to go before a judge and explain why the person needs to have a record sealed. Many people expect that these decisions are always based upon need or merit, meaning if the person has stayed out of trouble long enough or needs the Order in order to get a job and thereby support a family, then the judge will grant it. That is simply not the case. Merit and need are considered only IF the person is initially eligible to seek the Order. Therefore, step one in the process is to determine eligibility.
First, it must be noted that Orders for Limited Access apply only to misdemeanors convictions. Felony offenses cannot be sealed in Pennsylvania. In order to remove a felony conviction, a person must seek a pardon. In order to be eligible to receive a Limited Access Order, a person must be conviction free for 10 years and have paid all fines, costs, and fees. If the person pleaded guilty to Some first degree misdemeanor offenses cannot be sealed, and the law provides a list of such offenses. Most of the prohibited charges are related to crimes of violence, firearms, sexual offenses, and corruption of minors. Again, only first degree misdemeanor charges are prohibited from being sealed, meaning not all crimes of violence or sexual offenses are prohibited. For example, a charge of Simple Assault is a second degree misdemeanor and thereby eligible to be sealed eventhough it is clearly a crime of violence. If a person has multiple first degree misdemeanors, then there are additional time limitations. If a person has two or more offenses punishable by more than two years, which would mean first degree misdemeanors in Pennsylvania, then the person cannot expunge for 15 years following the conviction. If the person has for or more first degree misdemeanors, then the person must wait for 20 years following the conviction.
Determining eligibility for an Order for Limited Access can be difficult. Anyone interested in sealing a misdemeanor conviction record in Pennsylvania should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.