Pennsylvania allows applications for a legal change of name via petition to the court. One of the requirements for a name change which must be submitted with the petition is the petitioner’s fingerprints. The fingerprints are subsequently submitted to the Pennsylvania State Police to check for any prior criminal offenses as defined in 18 Pa. C.S. Ch. 91 (criminal history record information). The State Police will then report back to the court if they are subject to 18 Pa. C.S. Ch. 91 or not. Existence of a criminal background does not always defeat a name change application. The court may still approve a name change if over 2 years have passed from the completion of the criminal sentence with no remaining obligations (e.g. probation or parole) or the person has been pardoned. The State Police will have to update the criminal history record to reflect where a name change has been granted for a convicted felon.
There are certain offenses which will defeat a name change application. Pursuant to 54 Pa. C.S. § 702 (c), the court may not order a change of name for a person convicted of murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, statutory sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, robbery as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 3701(a)(1)(i) (relating to robbery), aggravated assault as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 2702(a)(1) or (2) (relating to aggravated assault), arson as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 3301(a) (relating to arson and related offenses), kidnapping or robbery of a motor vehicle or criminal attempt, criminal conspiracy or criminal solicitation to commit any of the offenses listed above or an equivalent crime under the laws of this Commonwealth in effect at the time of the commission of that offense or an equivalent crime in another jurisdiction.