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Changes Coming to the Expungement of Criminal Records

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SB 166 expands the scope of allowable expungements as well as save from dissemination to employers certain misdemeanor offenses.

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By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Expungement Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

Governor Tom Wolf recently signed into law Senate Bill 166 which will expand the range of crimes which may be expunged from criminal records. The law will not go into effect until 270 days from now. This means that courts will begin to process the new set of expungements starting mid-November 2016. The new law will expand the availability for expungement of certain offenses. Expungement is the process of destroying and deleting criminal records maintained by the government.  (See link to prior blog).

When three years have passed from the date of a person's arrest, there was no conviction for the arrest, and no proceedings are pending for the arrest, a person can have all notations of arrests, indictments, or other information related to the initiation of criminal proceedings expunged from their record before it is disseminated to an individual or noncriminal justice agency. Even better is the fact that an individual who has been free from arrest or prosecution following a conviction or final release from confinement or supervision (whichever is later) for a period of 10 years can petition the court to restrict the dissemination of certain offenses only to criminal justice agencies or certain licensing agencies.

What does this mean for you?

This means that if you have been free from arrest for 10 years you can have your conviction record for a misdemeanor of the second degree, misdemeanor of the third degree, or an ungraded offense which carries a maximum penalty of no more than 2 years restricted from dissemination to potential employers. This will reduce the potential obstacles that people often face when applying for employment.

Certain offenses are exempt from this new expansion. Exceptions include the following:  

  • Offenses punishable by imprisonment for more than 2 years (which includes all first degree misdemeanors); 
  • Convictions for simple assault graded as a misdemeanor of the second degree or greater; 
  • Crimes related to sexual intercourse with an animal; and
  • Impersonation of a public servant under §4912. 
  • Additionally, individuals convicted of witness intimidation and retaliation against a witness under §§ 4952, 4953, and 4958 will not be afforded the ability to restrict the dissemination of their records;
  • Finally, any offense which requires registration of sexual offenders under 42 Pa. C.S. chapter 97 sub chapter H will be exempt from the expansion of the new expungement law.

As noted in our prior blog, the prior law only allowed for an expungement of summary offenses and misdemeanors and felonies if you have been free of prosecution for 10 or more years and are at least 70 years old.  The other option is that you be dead for three years.  Which, really, that's not an option when you're looking for a job.  

Applications should start to be filled out and processed by our office in August 2016 in order to avoid the potential backlog that will be experienced in November.

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