Pennsylvania Supreme Court Grants Summary Conviction Expungement

When Client was 20 years old, Client got into trouble, and Client pleaded guilty to summary offenses of Public Drunkenness and Harassment.  Regrettably, Client got into trouble again within the year, and the second incident led to a guilty plea to a summary offense of Underage Drinking.  Client learned from these two experiences and stayed out of trouble.  Over sixteen years later, Client decided that she did not want the convictions on her record and wanted to seek an expungement.

State College Expungement Attorney

Client retained the attorneys at JD Law to go through the expungement process in Pennsylvania to have the summary convictions removed from the government records.  Expungement petitions were filed with the Clerk of Courts in Bellefonte.  The District Attorney did not oppose the expungement of the Underage Drinking charge from the second incident, but the prosecutor did oppose the expungement of the summary convictions from the first incident and argued that Client was not legally eligible to seek an expungement.

The expungement law at issue in the case required that a person seeking expungement to be “free of arrest or prosecution for five years following the conviction for that offense.”  The District Attorney argued that Client had not been free of arrest for the five years immediately following the first offense because Client got into trouble a second time within five years of the first incident.  The District Attorney’s interpretation of the law added the word “immediately,” and because Client got into trouble a second time within five years of the first incident, the prosecutor argued that the first incident could never be expunged.   The State College expungement attorney argued that the word immediately was not used in the law and should not be added, therefore the law only required that a person was crime-free for any five year period following the conviction.  Because Client had been crime-free for over sixteen years, Client was eligible to receive the expungement of the summary convictions.  Unfortunately, the Centre County judge agreed with the District Attorney and denied the expungement petitions.  The case was appealed to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, and the Superior Court also denied the expungement.

Appeal to Pennsylvania Supreme Court

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed to review the case and ultimately ruled that Client was eligible to expunge the summary convictions.  The Supreme Court agreed with the defense attorney’s argument and held that the prior courts erred by inserting the word immediately into the law.  The Court agreed that the law only required that a person had been crime-free for any five year period following the conviction.  The Supreme Court’s ruling was only step one in the expungement process, meaning the determination of eligibility.  The second step is to determine whether or not Client deserved an expunged, and the Supreme Court returned the case back to the Centre County court system to determine whether or not Client’s records should be expunged.  Based upon the facts and circumstances, the District Attorney agreed to the expungements of the summary convictions.  While this was a long and hard fought battle, justice ultimately prevailed.