Westmoreland hikes fees to remove some records from criminal court dockets
The cost of having criminal convictions and other court records expunged in Westmoreland County has increased 700 percent.
The new fee structure reflects a change in state law approved in 2016 which allows local counties to add $132 to the costs assessed to remove cases from criminal court records, Clerk of Courts Bryan Kline said. The county previously charged $22 for expungements.
The new $154 fee started being applied to expungement requests on Wednesday.
“It’s a big increase, but taxpayers should not be funding the court system. People involved in the court system should be funding it,” Kline said.
State law allows defendants in Pennsylvania to have some low-level criminal convictions expunged from public records. Expungements also are permitted when criminal cases result in acquittals as well as successful completion of jail diversionary programs such as Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition, which is granted to some first-time, nonviolent offenders for crimes such as drunk driving.
Westmoreland County has averaged about 780 expungements annually since 2014. Last year, 790 expungements were granted and more than 782 have been requested this year.
Kline said the fee hike was contemplated in 2016 but took two years to finalize.
The county earned $17,380 through expungement fees in 2017. It could earn more than $120,000 next year as a result of the higher fees. A portion of money earned from expungements will be diverted to the district attorney’s office with the remaining funds assigned to pay expenses in the clerk of courts office, Kline said.
“I don’t think the increase will affect that much the numbers of who apply for expungements,” Kline said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293 or [email protected]