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PennDot May Remove Convictions from Driving Records

March 12, 2002

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation now says it will remove old criminal convictions from motorists' driving records - but only under a direct court order, according to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Even then, there's a catch: While the specifics of a conviction will be erased after seven years, PennDot will leave a notation on the record that the driver's license was suspended, said Rich Kirkpatrick, the agency's chief spokesman. Attorneys who have been battling PennDot on behalf of clients over the issue scoffed at the agency's policy, which was announced after the agency was held in contempt in a Chester County court for refusing to delete the records of some drivers. "In essence, they [PennDot] are trying to invent ways to undermine the law because they refuse to accept it," said Peter Joseph McHugh, a Chadds Ford lawyer. "It's a shame that PennDot would embarrass the court and harm the public in this manner." PennDot had been refusing to erase the driving records of people who completed a special program for first-time offenders, even after their criminal records were cleared. But officials say they will now honor court orders to do so, after a Superior Court decision that PennDot driver records should be treated the same as criminal records. In January, the state Supreme Court let the ruling stand without comment. Kirkpatrick said that leaving notes in the drivers' records is necessary "in case there are additional charges of driving under suspension" later.
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