Expungements

What is Expungement?

An expungement is a legal order from a Judge that requires the prosecutors/district attorneys, state police, local police, and other state criminal justice agencies to ERASE something from a record.
An expungement can be for an entire arrest, or for individual charges from an arrest; and it can be for a conviction. In Pennsylvania, arrests can no longer be seen on the public website, but they are available to police, prosecutors, and organizations using the FBI records check as part of background investigations.
For a more detailed overview of understanding criminal records and expungement eligibility in Pennsylvania, visit our Self Help page.

START EXPUNGEMENT

The Criminal Record Expungement Project (“C-REP”) represents low-income individuals through the expungement process.

PLSE identifies clients by conducting monthly community-based intake sessions in the communities most affected by criminal history record information. The intake sessions also help PLSE understand the unique challenges that individuals with criminal records encounter in Pennsylvania, which inform our strategic litigation and also provide opportunities to build relationships in the community.

Currently, all intake sessions are staffed by volunteers, primarily law students, through our partnerships with the University of Pennsylvania’s Law School and Thomas R. Kline Law School. Following intake, petitions for expungement are reviewed, filed, and argued by PLSE’s staff attorneys. To date, PLSE has filed several thousand expungement petitions in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Over 95% of the petitions PLSE have filed have been granted.

Online Intake is Here!

To better serve our clients in the virtual age, PLSE is now supporting online intake for expungement cases.
You can also reach us by phone at (267) 519-5323.


START EXPUNGEMENT

Path to Expungement


As of May 2020, the court is closed due to the Covid-19 virus.

Before the court closed, the expungement process (from the time PLSE filed an expungement petition to the time the Judge granted the petition and issued the Order) was taking on average about four months. After that, it takes about 2 months to be sure that the criminal record has been erased. So the whole thing—from first sign up to final letter—will take less than a year.

1
Learn about it

It takes about 9 months and requires a court hearing before a Judge can order a criminal record erased. To learn about the process, attend a PLSE Expungement Clinic. At every clinic, we will talk about criminal records, what your rights are, and how you can try to get rid of criminal charges (expungement and pardons). You also get a private, one-on-one meeting where you can discuss your personal situation with one of our staff or volunteers. Almost all of our clinics are open to the public and free. You do not need to register in advance, but Photo ID is encouraged. After that, we’ll check whether you are income eligible and get back to you by mail or text.

You can also watch our “Know Your Rights” Video, about 45 minutes long.

2
See if you qualify for free legal services from PLSE

PLSE is only able to help people whose household incomes are less than 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. In our Expungement Project, we only represent people who have convictions in Philadelphia County. In our Pardon Project, we only represent people who live in Philadelphia County.

To find out if you are “income eligible” for our services, you can (1) come to a clinic, (2) be referred to us by one of our partner agencies, who will give you a passcode so you can start the process online, or (3) you can start the process by writing us.

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3
Review your complete criminal record

Once we get all the information we need, we will check our databanks and the records of the Philadelphia Criminal Court (which is the only place we do expungement work) and get a copy of your whole criminal record. We will then review it and send you a letter or an email saying what we can (and can’t) do to help you. We can get your records for free.

4
File Expungement Petitions – Philadelphia County only

You need to file an expungement petition for every time you were arrested. (This is different from a pardon application, where you only have to file one form and it covers all convictions.) We have represented over 3000 clients, and the average is 4 petitions per person (the highest number was over 20). Each county charges a different fee and has different rules for filing; but if you are our client, we can get everything filed for you for free in Philadelphia County. For the other counties, we will give you information about where you’ll need to go.

5
Court Hearing

These days, MOST of our clients DO NOT have to come to court! Most of the time, the Office of the District Attorney in Philadelphia does not object to our petitions. If they do, we hear in advance and tell you you need to come to court with us. Sometimes when we are in court, the Judge wants to hear you talk about yourself, the arrest, and other things – and we will talk with you before we go to court to make sure you are ready. We in over 95% of the time, so if you have to go, you can go with confidence!

The Judge has to decide whether your desire to erase your criminal history “outweighs” the government’s interest to keep everything in your file. If it’s even (“50-50”), you win: the District Attorney has to persuade the Judge not to erase it.

6
The Court’s Order

When you win, the Judge will sign an Order that requires everyone in the state – the DA, the local police, the county or magisterial court, the state police, the state court system – to erase everything about your arrest, including your “mug shot,” fingerprints, witness statements…everything.

7
Making sure they’ve really erased it

The people and institutions who get sent the Court Order of Expungement are supposed to do it right away, and they usually (but not always) send us a letter confirming that they have complied with the Order. We keep a list to make sure that they do. If they have questions or issues, we help solve them to get the job done.

Questions about expungement?

Get answers to your criminal records questions in our information hub. You can find our Video Library, criminal record FAQs and other resources.

SELF HELP HUB

Contact Us

(267) 519-5323

info@plsephilly.org

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