College is a transitional period for students. You are learning who you are and how to navigate the world, and you are living with a newfound sense of freedom. That can sometimes lead young adults to make some mistakes.

No one wants the missteps of their youth to follow them for the rest of their lives. In the event that you are charged with a crime, you may want your record to be expunged. How does it work?

21st birthday: Time to expunge

The good news for college students who may get into trouble for underage drinking is that expunging records is possible.

According to Pennsylvania law, an individual who is 21 years or older and was convicted of an alcohol violation on or after their 18th birthday can petition the court in the county where the violation occurred. If all the terms and conditions of the sentence have been satisfied, the court can order expungement.

Other expungements are not so easy

Unfortunately, other expungements are not as simple. In general, criminal records aren’t expungeable until you are 70 years old. That is a long time to live with the consequences of a youthful mistake. Not every crime is expungeable, either. Felonies and misdemeanors cannot be removed.

However, some crimes are eligible for expungement if you meet certain requirements. Many first-time offenders can take part in an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD). Students charged with a crime could come out of an ARD with no conviction or record, or just a short probation.

What if I’m not convicted?

You may believe that if your charges are dismissed or you are not convicted, your record is clean. This is not the case. Charges will still show up on a background check, which can make applying and being hired for jobs difficult after college. The good news is that those records are eligible for expungement. A criminal defense attorney can work with you to get them removed.