Recently, Centre County, Pennsylvania defense attorneys received notice that the filing fees for expungements will increase from $15 to $75 effective January 2, 2014. The filing fee had remained at $15 for many years, even though it was costing the Clerk of Courts Office a lot more than $15 to handle the voluminous, bureaucratic paperwork and procedures associated with each expungement filing. With the increased fee, I suspect that the Centre County Clerk of Courts will go from losing money on expungements to making a small profit, which will offset losses in other areas.
Although I have not seen any actual, hard data, I believe that the Centre County Court of Common Pleas receives more expungement motions per capita than any other county in Pennsylvania. This is due to simple demographics. A lot of Centre County criminal cases involve minor offenses committed by Penn State students or students visiting from other schools. A high percentage of the misdemeanor cases like DUI , small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia are resolved with ARD, while summary offenses like disorderly conduct, public drunkenness and criminal mischief are also frequently resolved with pre-trial adjudication dispositions, which allow for dismissal of the charges. Upon dismissal of charges, a defense attorney will file an expungement motion.
I do not see the increased filing fee for expungements having any impact on the volume of filings. College students applying for jobs cannot afford to have anything on their records. An extra $60 is a small price to pay if it means the difference between landing a job or receiving a rejection letter. Thus, in that sense, the expungement filing fee has what economists would call a strong inelasticity of demand. As with gasoline, people are going to pay no matter what the price is.
Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense lawyer in State College, Pennsylvania. A high percentage of his clients are charged with relatively minor offenses, which are often dismissed and ultimately expunged.