What is an Order for Limited Access?

Sealing a Criminal Record – Order for Limited Access

In Pennsylvania, an Order for Limited Access is basically what other states call the “sealing” of a record, meaning a record of the convictions still exist, but the records are not publicly accessible.  Therefore, if a person obtains an Order for Limited Access, then the prior convictions should be sealed and thereby should not appear on criminal background searches.  Section 9121(b)(3) of the Crimes Code discus the Order for Limited Access expressly states that a “court or the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts may not disseminate to an individual, a noncriminal justice agency or an Internet website any information relating to a conviction, arrest, indictment or other information leading to a conviction, arrest, indictment or other information, which is the subject of a court order for limited access as provided in section 9122.1.”  The sealing of a record is different from an expungement.  With an Order for Limited Access, the criminal history information would still be accessible to people within the criminal justice system, meaning the police, prosecutors, and judges.  This means if a person gets into trouble again, the sealed record can still be viewed by prosecutors and used against the person.  For example, people with a sealed record may not be approved to participate in first time offender or diversionary programs like ARD.  While an Order for Limited Access is not as good as an expungement, having a record sealed is still better than having it appear on a background search.  Some old and relatively minor summary or misdemeanor convictions are automatically sealed under Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate law.  For slightly more severe misdemeanor convictions, a person may need to file paperwork with the court to obtain the Order for Limited Access to seal the record.