Expungement of Juvenile Records in Delaware County Pennsylvania
Juvenile offenses in Pennsylvania result in a permanent juvenile record. In the majority of cases, the record is confidential and only made available to certain parties. Pennsylvania criminal defense attorneys warn that some juvenile records are non-confidential and are publicly available due to the nature of the crime and can have an effect on the individual throughout adulthood.
What constitutes a juvenile record and how it is handled varies from state to state. In Pennsylvania, there are two types of juvenile records: a law enforcement record and a court record. Both types are confidential unless there are one or more exceptions. If a juvenile record is non-confidential, then the public has full access to it and can even access it via the internet through the Pennsylvania State Police online portal. If the record is confidential, access to the law enforcement record is limited to:
- Attorneys for the juvenile
- Court personnel
- Law enforcement officers
- Probation department personnel
- Corrections department personnel
The court record is available to the:
- Attorneys for any victims
- Department of Corrections
- Parole Board
- Court personnel
- Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts
- Any agency with or supervising custody of the juvenile
Criteria for Expungement
Most juvenile records can be expunged in Delaware County and all other Pennsylvania counties, including both confidential and non-confidential records, and when a record is successfully expunged, it applies to both law enforcement and court records. Individuals petitioning the court to expunge a juvenile record must be at least 18 years old. Six months must have passed since the final discharge, and there cannot be any proceedings pending. The individual must have met all conditions of the sentence and not be subsequently convicted of an offense. If there was a subsequent conviction, there may be a five-year waiting period from the final discharge of it, but the district attorney can consent to an earlier expungement.
Certain Sex-Related Offenses Cannot Be Expunged
Pennsylvania law prevents some juvenile offenses from ever being expunged regardless of the circumstances. These exceptions apply to individuals who were at least 14 years old and attempted, solicited, or conspired to commit crimes like rape and aggravated indecent assault.
Expungement of DNA Records
Information like fingerprints and DNA records can be expunged, but this is not usual and is only carried out in extenuating circumstances. The most common example is when the juvenile has been arrested by mistake or the case was dismissed or reversed.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Expunge a Juvenile Record?
You do not need a lawyer to request expungement of a juvenile record and can even access the necessary form via the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania website. That said, it is highly recommended that you be represented by a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney experienced in expungements. The process can be complex. There is a different form to complete depending on the nature of the offenses. The form must be completed thoroughly and accurately, and it may be necessary to have a court hearing during which you will be expected to adhere to the rules of the court.
Obtaining a Juvenile Record
The first step in having your juvenile record expunged is to obtain your juvenile criminal history, as the information contained within will be required by the Juvenile Court forms that you must submit. These include details such as the docket number for the case, offense tracking number, and case disposition. If this information is missing or erroneous, the court will dismiss the request regardless of the merit. Note that if you are represented, your attorney can acquire this record on your behalf. If you are representing yourself, you can request the information in person or online through the court website. See the Delaware County Juvenile Court & Probation Services as a resource. Hiring an experienced attorney familiar with the local juvenile court system is recommended.
Filing a Petition for Expungement
The forms necessary to file a petition for expungement are available online. If you are seeking to expunge summary offenses, use the form contained in Section 490 of the Criminal Procedure Code. If you were convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, use the form found in Section 790. You can mail the completed form to the court or submit it in person to the court clerk.
The Expungement Process Varies Between Counties
It is important to note that the expungement process differs from one county to the next. This is because state law defines the criteria and execution of expungement but leaves the implementation up to the individual court systems. Generally, the petition goes to the district attorney for the county. If the DA approves, it is then sent to a judge who has final approval. If the DA does not approve, it is still passed to a judge but requires a hearing for which you must be present.
District Attorney Consent
Once the petition is filed, the DA has 30 days to provide consent. In most counties, if the DA consents within this time period, a judge signs an order, and the petitioner is notified by mail. In making the final decision, the judge will consider the nature of the crime, age at the time of the crime, age now, and the individual’s history since, including education, employment, alcohol and drug use, and criminal activity. Generally, if the DA has consented, a judge will not decide against that consent.
If the DA does not consent, you have the right to go to court and have the expungement reviewed by a judge. While a lawyer is not technically necessary, it is strongly encouraged to have representation so that you navigate this process efficiently and appropriately. While case law holds that a judge cannot grant an expungement without the district attorney’s consent, the hearing is an opportunity to earn that consent.
Expunge vs. Seal
In a broad legal sense, sealing a record means restricting it to limited access, and expunging a record means removing the record entirely. However, the application of these concepts varies from state to state. In Pennsylvania, most juvenile records are automatically sealed. In cases where the juvenile record is not confidential by default, the court can expunge it or effectively seal it. Note that Pennsylvania statute explicitly states that expunge and destroy do not have the same meaning and that the record is not erased.
The Effect of Expungement in Pennsylvania
Once a juvenile record is expunged in Pennsylvania, it is erased in the sense that it is no longer publicly available. This means that it will not be available to potential employers through a background check, with the exception of the federal government. It will also not be available to colleges and universities, adoption agencies, or public housing agencies. An expunged record can be reopened at a later time via a court order, but such orders are highly unusual and are issued only in extraordinary circumstances. In all cases of expungement, law enforcement is allowed to keep what state statute defines as “intelligence and investigative information.”
Legal Assistance With Juvenile Record Expungement
If you have a juvenile criminal record and would like to have it expunged, Bauer, Scanlon, & Wigginton is here to help. Our law firm has extensive experience navigating the juvenile law system in Pennsylvania and assisting clients in expunging their criminal records. To meet with a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney to discuss your situation, call our Media office at 610-590-5092, or contact us online.