Recently I discovered an alarming bit of news, which I will share with you… but first, some background:
I have worked in Lancaster County Criminal Justice for 30 years, and prosecuted or defended thousands of clients. As a defense attorney, I always wanted to have good, thorough communication about options, and the details of any plea agreement. Once a client pleads guilty though – it was out of my hands, and what happened to the client after that wasn’t clear. And whether the client understood everything was unclear.
I have also been speaking to various groups on the re-entry circuit, and treatment centers for those in recovery, and at CareerLink where hundreds of people cycle through every month. In conversations with everyone, one thing is clear – no-one who has a record knows ‘exactly’ what is on it! And attorneys are not always being as clear as they think they are.
The reasons are clear – at the time of the plea, details are changed, felonies are dropped or misdemeanors are withdrawn all in a matter of minutes while the client is worried about talking to the Judge. And you know, for all the clarity I tried to bring to my clients, they have told me “Walmer, all I heard was time-served” or “no jail”.
It gets more interesting – after the plea, or after release from jail, there is usually a Probation Officer who DOES know exactly what the client was convicted of – but the client never gets a copy! And he is never told how or when his record might be cleared.
Then you are supposed to get a job, go through the application process, answer the questions about “Have you ever been convicted…?” when they NEVER got a copy of their record or exactly what happened. They will probably get a copy of their fines and costs to pay – but no explanation of the what is on their record, or the difference between a summary, a misdemeanor or a felony! Amazing.
Here at Record Eraser, we are working to fix that. We have staff trained in how to run a public criminal record check on the AOPC website. AND, we have staff who know how to review the record for what can be cleared using Expungement Petitions, Limited Access Filings and Pardons.