A felony has a big impact on a person’s life and if you live in Pennsylvania, you’ve come here trying to find out how to get the felony off your record. Realize that with all felony records, there are three options you can take. 1) Expunge Your Record 2) Seal Your Record 3) Request a Pardon of Your Record.
The problem though is that all states don’t offer all three of these options. But before we get into what Pennsylvania offers, let’s review what each of these options actually mean.
If you get your record expunged in Pennsylvania it’s as if your arrest and/or charges never happened. Your record is completely destroyed, including all physical and public records. When asked if have a criminal record, after expungement, you can truthfully answer “no”.
Sealing your record in Pennsylvania is similar to expungement, but your record still exists in a limited form. The public does not have access to your record, but there are some exceptions. Your records can still be accessed by law enforcement and the courts. Record sealing is not as secure as expungement, but it is a reasonable alternative that is comparatively easier to obtain if your state offers it.
If you receive a pardon in Pennsylvania, you still have record of your arrest or charge, but your guilt is exonerated. That is, you have proven that you are rehabilitated and forgiven for your crimes. You can also get relief in terms of having various rights restored, such as your right to vote. The requirements for pardons vary between states, but typically there is a lot of documentation required, and includes lengthy waiting periods to apply and receive a pardon.
Things to Know Before You Start
First: It’s important to understand that every state is different in terms of what methods are available for felons to remove their record and the information below will help you understand what you can do in Pennsylvania.
Felony Expungement in Pennsylvania
No, it is not possible to expunge your felony in Pennsylvania.
Sealing a Record in Pennsylvania
Yes, it is possible to seal your record in Pennsylvania but it depends on the felony.
Getting a Pardon in Pennsylvania
Yes, it is possible to get a pardon of your record in Pennsylvania but it depends on the felony.
Second: When trying to clear your record, you really have two options. The first is to get a free consultation from a lawyer to see what they think of your case, and the second is to try to do all of the paperwork yourself.
Third: We HIGHLY recommend that you get a free consultation from a lawyer prior to taking any action. We say this because whether you want to expunge, seal, or pardon your record, it’s an extremely complicated process. Failure to follow the process properly can end up with you being denied for the request and having to wait additional time (sometimes several years) before you can file again. In addition, getting an expungement lawyer can increase your odds of succeeding and sometimes it’s more affordable than you think. The first step is to click on the button below to confirm that you’re eligible for the expungement/sealing off your record.
Can You Expunge a Felony in Pennsylvania?
Unfortunately, you cannot completely expunge your criminal record in Pennsylvania; that is, you can only have it sealed from public view.
Can You Seal Your Criminal Record in Pennsylvania?
When a criminal record in Pennsylvania is sealed (referred to as expunged in PA), all of the information that relates to the offense in question becomes unavailable for public viewing. All documents are sealed except original entries prepared by the court and related to the arrest are not eligible for expungement: no court record or index that was created and filed by a Pennsylvania Commonwealth court can be expunged.
CANNOT SEAL IF…
You’re under 70 years of age. You cannot have your record sealed unless you are at least 70 years old, and at least 10 years have passed without arrest following your release from prison or supervision.
How to Seal Your Criminal Record in Pennsylvania
You cannot have a felony sealed in Pennsylvania unless you have received a pardon.Once you have had a felony pardoned, to seal your record, you must file a petition.In certain instances, no petition may be required. Pennsylvania law has created an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program (ARD program) that is used in certain situations. Provided you are eligible for the ARD program and you successfully complete it, your record will automatically be sealed.
• Before you begin this process, we insist that you take this eligibility test to determine if you’re eligible to seal your record.
• If you are eligible, you should talk to the lawyer that we refer you to so that you get an idea of the price for their services (it’s likely cheaper than you think because expungements are mostly paperwork) and see what other helpful information they can give you.
• If you are not eligible to seal your record based on our test, then you should stop here.
• If you are eligible to seal your record based on our test and want to do this without a lawyer, continue reading.
• For examples and explanations on the record-sealing process, go here.
Steps to seal your felony record in Pennsylvania
Step 1. Contact the court where you were charged to obtain a petition
• The prothonotary and clerk of courts’ office keeps Civil and Criminal records for the Court of Common Pleas.
• All documents that you will need to file must be filed through the prothonotary and clerk of courts’ office for the county in which the record you wish to expunge is located.
• This is usually the court where you were first convicted
Step 2. Fill out the Expungement Petition properly
• The form will ask you to include all of your past arrests and crimes that you were charged with.
• You will also need to know which police department was involved in your arrest and other information relating to programs in which you may have participated.
Step 3. After properly petitioning the court, the court must send a certified order to any agencies holding copies of your record information and direct their expungement.
• The expungement itself occurs once the certification from the court is received and the repository director authorizes it.
Can You Apply for a Pardon in Pennsylvania?
Anyone can apply for a pardon in Pennsylvania. There are no definite standards for when a pardon will be given, but the majority of people who receive pardons have a record of only one minor offense that was committed at least five years ago, or a more serious offense that was committed at least ten years ago.
CANNOT PARDON IF…
Out-of-state conviction. The Governor can only consider a pardon application for the state of Pennsylvania.
How to Apply for a Pardon in Pennsylvania
• Before you begin this process, we insist that you take this eligibility test to determine if you’re eligible to request a pardon for your record. In most cases, if you are eligible for expungement on our test, then you’ll be eligible for a pardon.
• If you are eligible, you should talk to the lawyer that we refer you to so that you get an idea of the price for their services (it’s likely cheaper than you think because requesting a pardon is mostly paperwork) and see what other helpful information they can give you.
• If you are not eligible based on our test, then you should stop here.
• If you are eligible based on our test and want to do this without a lawyer, continue reading.Steps to apply for a pardon in PennsylvaniaStep 1. Request the application
• The first step is to request an application online, or to send a short letter to the Board of Pardons (BOP) requesting an application for a hearing with an $8.00 money order, cashier’s check, law firm check, or institution check, and a self-addressed business size envelope with $1.30 of postage on it, payable to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
• Once the Board receives the check and envelope, it will then mail you a full clemency application packet with instructions.Step 2. Collect the required documents
• You will be required to order your complete criminal history
• It can take as long as six months for this record to be sent to you, so you should send away for it as soon as you begin the pardon application process.
• You will also need to request your Certified Driving Record and get one color passport-sized photoStep 3. Gather necessary information and supporting materials
• You must list every time you were arrested and any citation you ever received.
• This information often can be gathered at your county courthouse.
• You will need to track down information about your conviction(s), such as the date of the crime, the place where you were tried, and the name of judge who presided over your trial and/or sentenced you.Step 4. Fill out the application
• The most important questions on the application require you to discuss the specific details of the crime, your conduct since the crime was committed, and your explanation of why you should be pardoned.Step 5. Although not required, you should also consider getting letters of recommendation and any documents that show positive changes in your life (such as diplomas or awards).Step 6. Although also not required, we highly suggest that you submit, on a separate sheet of paper, a detailed and genuine personal statement explaining why you need a pardon.
• In your personal statement, do not simply say that you want a clean criminal record again.
• Tell the Board/Governor how your conviction has negatively affected you and/or your family.
• For example, explain how you have been denied housing or employment opportunities because of your conviction, and how this has prevented you from providing your family and you an adequate standard of living.
• Submit any proof you may have (such as denial letters) to support your claims.
• If you are facing deportation because of a conviction, explain how being separated from your family will negatively affect you as well as them.
• It is extremely important that you tell the Board that you accept responsibility for the acts which lead to your conviction(s).
• Explain your answers to these questions in as much detail as possible.Step 7. Send in your completed application
• Once you finish the application, you must make five copies of the application and send it to the Board along with all required and supplemental documents and a $25.00 money order.
• If your application is missing anything, the Board will send it back to you.
• Requesting a fee waiver
• You can try to get the Board to waive the $33.00 of its fees if you feel that you cannot afford it, but the Board almost never waives fees for people who are not currently in prison.
So, there you have it. Three separate ways to get rid of your record in Pennsylvania. As we’ve said numerous times throughout this page, this is a really complicated process and we highly recommend that you take this eligibility test prior to taking any action to determine if you are eligible for any of these options.
Please note, the information contained here is not legal advice and is strictly informational. If you have any further questions about the information above, or in general, you need to contact a lawyer directly.