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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
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Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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In 1997 I was convicted of forgery, Class D Felony. I served

Customer Question

In 1997 I was convicted of forgery, Class D Felony. I served four months incarcerated, paid the fines and costs, as well as repaid the money from the forged check to its rightful owner. I served two years of probation. This was my first and last issue with the law.
Since then, it has been difficult to obtain employment, even though my charge was a non-violent, and a non-drug related offense.
At what point do I need to stop listing my crime on employment applications ? How far do employers look for such records ? Is there a way to expunge this from my record since this was a first offense ?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 1 year ago.
Hello Jacustomer,

Unfortunately, one's criminal records stay with you for all your life, unless you are eligible to do something proactive like apply for an expungement or pardon. In some states, there is a 7 year rule, beyond which employers cannot go when doing a criminal background check. However, PA has not subscribed to a rule like this. What any one employer will do is up to him, but with a formal background check, your offense will turn up.

I wish I could give you better news, therefore, about expungement, but Pennsylvania cuts offenders no slack. Unless you have been convicted of a summary offense or you got ARD, you have to wait until you are 70 years olf or until you have been dead for 3 years (really -- I am not kidding) to get an expungement. I know that sounds pretty incredible, but you can see this for yourself here. Pennsylvania wants its convictions to stick.

If you were convicted of a summary offense, you do not need a lawyer to apply for your expungement. It's one of the few areas of do-it-yourself law were applicants can be successful all by themselves if they are not intimidated. You would have to petition the court, and you can find instructions on the above link.

If your conviction was not a summary offence, the only other thing you can do to minimize the effects of your conviction would be to apply to the governor of Pennsylvania for a pardon. This doesn't erase a conviction or seal a record. But it will be shown as pardoned, if yours is granted, which is still official state recognition that you have turned your life around. You don't need a lawyer to get this done either, although it is only fair to tell you that a gubernatorial pardon is always a long shot.

. Here is a sample of the application for a pardon in Pennsylvania. But the Board of Pardons asks its applicants to contact them directly for forms. You can find their contact number here.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.


This charge was in Tennessee. Does this make a difference in the expungment ?

Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 1 year ago.
Hello Pamela,

Yes, it may make a difference. Tennessee's law was recently liberalized.
While the old law kept all adult convictions from being expunged, except those dismissed as part of a diversion program, now since July, certain low level Tennessee felonies are expungeable. You can see the list of expungeable offenses here.

If one of these exceptions on the list applies in your case, you would have to petition the court where the conviction occurred. While strictly speaking, it would not involve a lawyer, it would have to be put formally on papers, and you'd probably be better off using one. The form is available on line.

Should you not be eligible, you'd have to try to obtain a pardon from the Governor of Tennessee. That would not erase your conviction but it would show on your record as having been pardoned which is still proof that the state's highest official believes that you have turned his life around.. You can read more about that here, and there is also an application form.

Good luck!

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Zoey_ JD
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Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.