Expungement Law Recently Interpreted by Superior Court
Individuals charged with a crime or summary offense are often interested in obtaining an expungement of their case following a final disposition. The likelihood of obtaining an expungement depends primarily on the type of case and the final disposition or outcome of the case. Misdemeanor and felony level convictions are ordinarily not subject to expungement, until an individual reaches 70 years of age and has been arrest free for at least 10 years following confinement. Expungements for summary convictions are different. The law provides that an individual may have a summary conviction expunged when they have been free of arrest and prosecution for five years following the conviction for a summary offense.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently addressed whether an individual who was convicted of the summary offenses of harassment and public drunkenness in 1997 could have those offenses expunged even though the individual had been convicted of a summary criminal mischief offense in 1998. In Commonwealth v. Giulian, the Appellant had filed a petition to expunge her 1997 harassment and public drunkenness offenses. Appellant filed her petition in 2013. She argued that because well over five years had expired since the 1997 convictions, she was entitled to expungement of the 1997 summary convictions. The Appellant further argued that since her 1998 criminal mischief conviction, she had been arrest and prosecution free for well over five years. The trial court in reviewing the expungement statute determined that the 1997 offenses were not subject to expungement because the law requires five years of arrest and prosecution free time subsequent to an offense before an expungement will be permitted. The trial court held that Appellant’s conviction in 1998 for summary criminal mischief resulted in her being precluded from obtaining an expungement of her 1997 convictions.
The Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s decision and opined that the plain language of the statute did not permit an expungement of her 1997 summary convictions. Specifically, the Superior Court referenced the fact that the statute provides that an individual who has been convicted of a summary offense may obtain an expungement when he or she “has been free of arrest or prosecution for five years following the conviction for that offense.” In affirming the trial court’s decision, the Superior Court reasoned that this phrase means that the five years immediately following a summary conviction must be arrest and prosecution free years for an offense to be eligible for an expungement. If an individual incurs a new arrest or prosecution during the five year period subsequent to a summary conviction, even if they later in life have a period of five years or more without an arrest or prosecution, their initial summary conviction will not be eligible for expungement.
The law concerning expungements can be complex and it is essential that you contact a knowledgeable attorney to assist you with any petition for expungement. The attorneys at Clemons Richter & Reiss, PC have the experience and knowledge to properly pursue a petition for expungement on your behalf.