Expungement – Oops, Don’t Do It Again

Say your son is away at college, and one night you get a call that he’s been picked up for DUI. Although he only had a few drinks, he is nevertheless guilty of the offense. After you’ve finished strangling him, you hire a good lawyer and your son is accepted into the County’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program (“ARD”). He serves his probation, completes the required hours of community service, pays his fines (or rather you pay his fines), and fulfills the conditions of the ARD program.

Now that that’s behind him, you worry that your son’s criminal record will haunt him for the rest of his life. You recall that when you applied for your job, a criminal background check was part of the application process. Will this criminal record hurt your son’s chances of getting a good job? What can you do? The answer may be expungement.

Pennsylvania maintains a central repository of records containing criminal history information on individuals arrested or convicted of crimes. These records are maintained to assist the various law enforcement agencies (such as the State and local police, FBI, County Division of Probation, etc.) in performing their duties in the criminal justice system.

In many cases, expungement may be granted, but there are exceptions to every rule. For example, certain crimes involving a victim who is under 18 years of age are not permitted to be expunged.

If your son stays out of trouble during this process, a Petition for Expungement may be filed with the Court of Common Pleas. The County District Attorney could oppose the Petition for Expungement of your son’s record on the DUI charges, but based on this scenario, because your son’s crime was not a serious offense and because he had no prior involvement with the criminal justice system, it is unlikely that the District Attorney would choose to do so. Should the DA choose to oppose the Petition, the Commonwealth would have the burden of affirmatively justifying the retention of the record.

The Court of Common Pleas would then have the authority either to grant or deny an expungement request. If an order is granted, it would direct that the various law enforcement agencies must expunge and destroy all criminal history records relating to this offense.

Certain agencies, however, may keep certain information, for limited purposes. For example, the DA’s Office may maintain only a record of acceptance of pre-trial or post-trial diversion or probation and shall not use such information except for the purpose of determining subsequent eligibility for ARD or similar programs. Likewise, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation must maintain a record of your son’s acceptance into the ARD program for a period of seven years from the date of notification.

If you have any questions or if we can assist you in expungement of criminal records, feel free to contact our office.

— Denise Ciampitti

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