More than 150 people came to the Norris Square Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, October 28, 2014, to participate in a free legal Expungement Clinic to clear their criminal records. The event was organized by Ceiba and the Hispanic Bar Association of PA (HBAPA) with the support from the Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE). Univision covered the event and the news clip (in Spanish) is available here.
Expungement is the process by which some criminal records are sealed and destroyed. This applies mostly to arrests where there are no convictions and to summary offense convictions such as disorderly conduct, reckless driving, and some retail theft offenses that are usually punishable only by a fine. A 2009 law permits people to clear their record of convictions for summary offenses if they have been free of arrest or prosecution for at least five years. The goal of the clinic was to provide information to community residents about the Expungement Process, screen people for pro bono representation, and assign pro bono cases to volunteer attorneys
Eleven volunteer attorneys and 10 law students prepared 110 intakes for people interested in pro bono representation to expunge their criminal record. The next steps of the process will be to:
• Review the intakes and determine which applicants can be offered pro bono representation
• Distribute the accepted applications among the volunteer attorneys
• Draft the Expungement petitions
• Represent clients at petition hearing
Thanks to Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE), clients whose income falls below 200% of the poverty line are eligible to have their court filing fees waived.
People accepted for pro bono representation will be contacted by the end of November. The drafting of Expungement petitions will take place in December and January. Petition hearings are expected to take place in February and March.