August 25, 2009

Superior Court of Pennsylvania Rules the State Carries the Burden of Proof in Expungement Hearings

An expungement proceeding is held when a subject of a prior criminal proceeding seeks to have the earlier records sealed or destroyed. An expungement differs from a pardon, in that a conviction is not merely forgiven but rather treated as though it never occurred. There are often conditions which must be satisfied in order to successfully expunge one’s record. Although an expungement relates to prior criminal occurrences, the proceeding itself is a civil matter. One instance in which a person would seek to have their record expunged would be if they were convicted of a crime and later had the conviction overturned.

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently decided a case of first impression, in which a man convicted of rape and other sexual crimes sought expungement of record after his conviction was overturned. The Petitioner had been convicted of rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, robbery, and criminal conspiracy in 1987. He was sentenced to 12-24 years in prison, serving more than ten (10) years before having his convictions vacated in 1996. The convictions were vacated when DNA testing showed DNA of three different men on the victim’s clothing, none of whom were the Petitioner. A new trial was ordered and the Commonwealth chose to nolle prosse the charges, meaning that based on a lack of evidence, the Commonwealth would no longer prosecute. Subsequently, the Petitioner sought the expungement of his prior convictions which were vacated.

The Court held that it was the burden of the Commonwealth to show why an arrest record should not be expunged. The Court stated that the Governmental interest in maintaining arrest records is outweighed by an individual’s interest in expunging their record of convictions later overturned. A person’s criminal record has effects on many aspects of every day life, for example obtaining employment. One who is wrongfully convicted has a compelling interest in expungement of their record, in that they should not continue to pay for a crime which they did not commit. It is therefore the Commonwealth’s burden to show a more compelling reason for maintaining the person’s record.

Expungement

A criminal record affects many aspects of one’s life. A person who is wrongfully convicted, or otherwise who meets certain criteria, may be eligible for expungement of the prior criminal proceedings. At the Law Offices of Marc Neff, we are committed to providing our clients with the best defense available, before, during, and after criminal proceedings. Mr. Neff has more than twenty years of experience in the area of criminal defense and has successfully assisted many clients in subsequent expungement proceedings. If you have been arrested, charged, or convicted of a criminal offense, and are interested in having your criminal record expunged, contact the Law Offices of Marc Neff via phone at (215) 563-9800 or e-mail Marc@nefflawoffices.com for a confidential consultation.