City Mission to Hold Expungement Day

the scales of justice

Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Services and the Washington County Bar Association will Come Together to Provide Expungement Services

The Legal Clinic at the City Mission in Washington, Pa., as well as Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Services and the Washington County Bar Association, are coming together Friday, March 29, to host a free criminal expungement clinic for residents of the City Mission homeless shelter and income-eligible members of the public.  The “Expungement Day” program will take place at the City Mission from 9 a.m. to noon. The Mission is located at 84 West Wheeling Street in Washington. City Mission residents will have an opportunity to meet with the volunteering attorneys beginning at 9 a.m., and eligible members of the public will be able to receive expungement assistance beginning at 10 a.m. Pre-registration is requested, but walk-ins will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

An expungement is a legal court order that destroys a criminal record and removes it from public view. The court will also consider requests to shield from public view non-violent misdemeanor convictions and non-convictions, so long as the person making the request has received no additional convictions for the past 10 years.  “The opportunity for criminal record expungement is so important for the homeless at the City Mission and for many others,”says attorney Mary Bates, who founded The Legal Clinic at the City Mission more than 10 years ago to help the homeless overcome some of the legal issues that hinder them from achieving productive, independent lives.  “Often, even lower-level misdemeanor criminal offenses committed years ago can become a major barrier to getting a job and attaining adequate housing. Our goal is to help them navigate the expungement process and free themselves from these burdens.”

As Brian Gorman, executive director of Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Aid, explains the dilemma, all criminal and summary cases filed with a court in Pennsylvania, including those cases that do not result in convictions, are posted online, making them accessible to the public. These cases also may be reported publicly by consumer reporting agencies.

“Almost one in three adult Americans has been charged with a misdemeanor or felony in his or her life,” Gorman says. “Not nearly that number of our fellow Americans, however, should be treated as criminals. “Expungement Day is designed to help our families, friends and neighbors get back on their feet, particularly with housing and jobs.”

Bates’ Legal Clinic hosted its first Expungement Day in 2017, attracting more than 300 area residents to the event.All told, nearly everyone in attendance received expungement petition assistance, and the petitions of well over 200 people were granted by the court as a result of this volunteer effort.  “Thanks to all of the volunteer attorneys from the three organizations, the first Expungement Day was a great success,” says Bates.  

In addition to residents of the City Mission, members of the public also are welcome to attend Expungement Day provided they have a total household income of at or below 187.5 percent of the federal poverty guideline. Still, volunteer attorneys from the Washington County Bar Association will be available at the event to discuss other legal resources and referral options for those who are not income-eligible for assistance.

For information and to pre-register for the March 29 Expungement Day program, contact SW PA Legal Aid at 724-225-6170 or visit 10 West Cherry Avenue, Washington, Pa.,15301. Also, the Washington County Bar Association has made available a brochure, “Understanding Expungement and Limited Access to Criminal Records. Contact the Bar Association at 724-225-6710 or by email at wcba@washcobar.org.  Information on removing criminal records also is available at www.spla.org or by contacting Southwestern PA Legal Aid by email at legalservices@splas.org.

March 30, 2019
Susan Gartland - Social Media Manager
Sue Gartland
Social Media Manager
Sue has a vast career in gospel rescue missions adding great value to the City Mission team. Sue has been in many roles in the mission and is always filling in where she is needed - which is A LOT!
sgartland@citymission.org

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