What You Need to Know About Domestic Violence Charge Expungement in Pennsylvania
Domestic violence can be a felony that permanently stays on your record. Here’s everything you need to know about whether a domestic violence charge can be expunged in Pennsylvania.
Expungement is removing a charge completely from an individual’s criminal record. If an individual’s crime was expunged, it would be as if they never committed the crime in the first place. There would be no record of the crime. In Pennsylvania, courts will only expunge domestic violence charges under specific circumstances.
How to Expunge a Domestic Violence Charge in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Statute Title 18 indicates only three situations in which courts may expunge criminal history record information:
- If the individual is at least 70 years old, and they have been free from prosecution or arrest for ten years following their release from confinement or supervision.
- If the individual has been deceased for three years.
- If the crime is a summary offense, and the individual petitions the court for expungement of the summary offense. Law requires the individual to be free of arrest for five years following conviction of the offense.
Since domestic violence is a crime, it falls under the guidelines stated above. If an individual’s situation meets any of the three circumstances, the individual can submit a petition for expungement to the court of common pleas. There is a separate petition for summary offenses.
What is a Summary Offense?
Pennsylvania law defines a summary offense as the lowest level of a criminal offense. For example, if the domestic charge is harassment, the court may determine it to be a summary offense.
Alternatives to Expungement: Record Sealing
If expungement is impossible, the alternative is record sealing. Record sealing hides an individual’s criminal record from the public while still allowing judicial officers and law enforcement to view them.
Pennsylvania’s Act 5 limited access allows individuals to petition the court for record sealing if they have served their punishment and completed court-ordered obligations. Individuals must wait 10 years after their sentence before they can file a petition.
FAQs About Expunging a Domestic Violence Charge in Pennsylvania
What if the charge never resulted in a conviction?
If an individual is arrested but is not convicted of a crime, then the court can expunge the arrest record.
Can employers view sealed records?
No, employers cannot view sealed records. Sealed records are no longer part of the public record.
How do I know if a domestic violence charge is eligible for record sealing?
Depending on the nature of the alleged domestic violence, Pennsylvania specifies eligibility guidelines here.