A criminal conviction is a life changing event. Not only do you have to suffer the consequences of the criminal justice system from fines and costs to probation and jail time, but it follows you everywhere you go. Trying to get a job, trying to rent an apartment, trying to buy a car. Your conviction will haunt you in all of these endeavors. Depending on the type of conviction, you may also lose your right to vote and your right to keep and bear arms. And a conviction is on your record forever… usually.
There are some circumstances where you are eligible to get that conviction off your record through either a limited access, expungement, or pardon. What you need to do depends on the conviction.
Limited Access is a semi-expungement for lack of better terms. If you are granted limited access, the conviction is not totally gone, but it restricts who can see it.
Who can apply? Any person who has a conviction for a second degree, third degree or ungraded misdemeanor. The applicant must have been free of arrest or prosecution following conviction or release from confinement for a minimum of 10 years.
Certain misdemeanor offenses are prohibited – simple assault (unless fight entered into by mutual consent); sexual intercourse with an animal; impersonating a public servant; intimidating a witness or victim; retaliating against a witness, victim or party; intimidating, retaliating or obstructing in a child abuse case; and any offense which requires registration as a sex offender.
Also excluded are those who have 4 or more convictions for offenses punishable by 1 or more years’ imprisonment.
The process is three-fold. Step 1 is determining if you have a conviction that is eligible for a limited access petition. Step 2 is completing and filing the application. Step 3 is a hearing. A hearing is only held if the Commonwealth objects to the petition. If there is no objection by the Commonwealth, the petition for limited access will be granted without a hearing.
An expungement is the next level up from limited access in that it permanently removes the case from your record. However, an expungement is limited to cases that were either dismissed by the District Attorney, acquitted at trial, or following successful completion of ARD.
If you have been convicted of a summary offense, you are eligible for expungement after 5 or more years if you been free of any criminal charges in that time period.
If you are over 70 years old and have been crime free for at least 10 years, you may also seek expungement for any criminal record.
An expungement, like a limited access is a three step process. Step 1 is determining if you are eligible for an expungement. Step 2 is completing and filing the petition and step 3 is the hearing. Also like limited access, if there is no objection by the Commonwealth, the petition is typically granted without a hearing.
If you have a conviction on your record that is not eligible for limited access, you may qualify for a pardon. A pardon permanently removes a conviction from your record. A pardon can be sought by anyone for any crime. The process however, is much more complicated and takes a very very long time.
The process for obtaining a pardon requires the gathering of all the documents pertaining to the charges you are looking to pardon, obtaining a full access criminal background, a full drivers history and completing a lengthy application – including a detailed description of why you think you should be pardoned.
After the application is filed, it becomes a waiting game. The board of pardons has to review the application, and upon completion of the review, an in home interview is scheduled. Following the interview, depending on the recommendation of the board, you may receiving a hearing on the application. After the hearing, again depending on the recommendation of the board, the application is sent to the governor for final say on the pardon.
If you have a criminal conviction or a case that was dismissed but is still on your record, call us right away. We can help you clear up your record!