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PA EXPUNGEMENT ELIGIBILITY:
CHARGES DISMISSED WITH GUILTY PLEA
PA EXPUNGEMENT ELIGIBILITY: CHARGES DISMISSED WITH GUILTY PLEA
Experienced Pennsylvania Expungement Lawyers
Thank you for visiting Lampman Law. If you think your criminal record is keeping you from gaining your desired employment of from reaching your full potential, please call Lampman Law at 570-371-3737 to personally discuss your eligibility for an expungement with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
This article discussed expungement eligibility for charges that did not result in a conviction after a guilty plea. Expunging these records is important because people reviewing you record may not understand what you were actually convicted of and may only remember or hold the dismissed charges against you. Often, the most serious (felony) charges are dismissed in a plea agreement. While expungement is possible in these situation, the rules are especially complex. If you have any questions after reading this or if you want to move forward with filing an expungement petition, please call us today.
Charges Dismissed / Withdrawn or Nolle Prosse per a Negotiated Plea
Most criminal cases are resolved with a guilty plea. In 2016, 85.7% of criminal cases resulted in a negotiated plea (only 3.1% of cases were disposed of with trial). Thus, it is common for withdrawn, dismissed, or nolle prossed charges to be on a criminal history. The arrest record of these dispositions may be expunged; however, it is more likely that the Commonwealth will object to petitions to expunge these records requiring a Wexler hearing to resolve the matter.
The likelihood of successfully expunging records in these situations depends on how/why the charges were dropped. Here courts are interested in whether charges were nolle prossed, withdrawn, or dismissed. A nolle prosse is essentially a decision by the Commonwealth that there is insufficient evidence to support the charges at the present time, with the caveat that the Commonwealth may reinstate the charges later. In contrast, the Commonwealth's decision to drop charges pursuant to a plea agreement carries no such implicit admission that proof is lacking. Rather, that decision is simply part of a bargain with the defendant to avoid a trial in exchange for a plea to lesser charges. Here, such a bargain is “quasi-contractual.”
Expunging Nolle Prossed Charges in Pennsylvania
In sum, charges that have been nolle prossed are more likely to be granted expungement. See Commonwealth v. Joiner, 68 A.3d 341 (Pa. Super. 2013). Courts disfavor expunging dismissed/withdrawn charges because the prosecutor’s decision not to pursue the charge(s) was not directly based on the evidence, but instead was part negotiated plea agreement. “When the defendant pleads guilty and the Commonwealth agrees to dismiss charges as part of the plea agreement, a defendant is normally not entitled to expungement of the dropped charges under the Wexler factors.” Commonwealth v. Lutz, 788 A.2d 993 (Pa. Super. 2001). Courts suggest that expunging the record of the plea agreement is unfair and giving the defendant “more than he bargained for in the plea agreement.” See Commonwealth v. Waughtel, 999 A.2d 623, 626 (Pa. Super. 2010).
Expungement for Charges Dismissed by Guilty Plea Agreement
Nevertheless, charges dismissed as part of a negotiated plea may be expunged. For example, in Commonwealth v. Trimble, the Superior Court held that expungement was proper where the Commonwealth failed to meet its burden of justifying why the petitioner was not entitled to expungement of his arrest record related to charges of rape, simple assault and terroristic threats dismissed in connection with negotiated plea of guilty to single count of kidnapping. 75 A.3d 518 (Pa. Super. 2013). In that case, the Commonwealth elected not to oppose motion for expungement in any way, and thus advanced no interest in preserving movant's records. Id. Additionally, in cases where an expungement was part of the plea agreement, or where the terms negotiated otherwise justify expungement, courts have granted expungement. Commonwealth v. A.M.R., 887 A.2d 1266 (Pa. Super. 2005) (granting expungement of theft and misapplication of entrusted property that were dropped after defendant agreed to resign from his job). See also Commonwealth v. Hanna, 964 A.2d 923 (Pa. Super. 2009) (illustrating that courts are interested in the record of how and why the charges were dropped).
Therefore, in these situations, an expungement is possible; however, the petitioner must realize that the Commonwealth may object to their petition and must be ready to argue why their petition for expungement should be granted.
Call Now to Speak with an Experienced Pennsylvania Expungement Lawyer
Thanks again for visiting Lampman Law. Please call us at 570-371-3737 if you would like to discuss expunging a record. The call is free of charge and without pressure. We hope to hear from you today.