On November 14, 2016, a new law took effect in Pennsylvania important to the area of Criminal Defense, allowing individuals with certain offenses in their criminal history to have their criminal records sealed. Under this new law, if an individual is eligible and the proper steps are followed, that person can obtain a Court Order stating that his or her criminal record is sealed, and can only be accessed for limited purposes. Those limited purposes are access by criminal justice agencies and government agencies, such as state licensing boards. Governor Tom Wolf signed this bill into law in February of 2016, with the intent that individuals who have minor criminal offenses on their record would no longer have to worry about those charges coming up when applying for a job, a loan, or housing.
Before the signing of this new law, individuals who had been convicted of misdemeanor offenses were only entitled to expungement of those offenses once they reached the age of 70 years old, or were officially granted a pardon. However, this new legislation opens the door to a limited form of “expungement” to an overwhelming number of individuals convicted of minor offenses. Unlike an expungement for ARD or expungement of a Summary offense, if eligible under the new law, the records of conviction are not destroyed; however, those agencies that hold information regarding the criminal conviction are prevented from providing that information to anyone, other than the exceptions mentioned before. The record is therefore considered sealed.
Am I Eligible?
To qualify for this form of expungement, you must meet the following qualifications: (1) no arrests or prosecutions within 10 years of your conviction or completion of your incarceration, probation, or parole on your sentence, whichever is later; (2) the conviction must have been for a misdemeanor 2 (M2), misdemeanor 3 (M3), or ungraded misdemeanor (M) offense; (3) offense must have a maximum penalty of no more than two years; and (4) must not have been convicted at any time of an offense specifically excluded by the statute.
What offenses are specifically excluded by the statute? (1) Any offense punishable by two or more years; (2) Four or more offenses punishable by one or more years; (3) a Simple Assault conviction (unless it was a misdemeanor 3 grading); (4) a Sexual Intercourse with an Animal conviction; (5) an Impersonating a Public Servant conviction; (6) an Intimidation of a Witness conviction; (7) a Retaliation Against a Witness or Victim conviction; (8) an Intimidation, Retaliation or Obstruction in Child Abuse case conviction; and (9) any offense that requires registration under the Sexual Offenders Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). A conviction of any of these charges at any point in your criminal history, even if this is not the charge or record you are seeking to have sealed, makes you ineligible for this relief.
What sort of offenses are eligible? Examples of offenses eligible include Driving Under the Influence, Disorderly Conduct, Harassment, Retail Theft, Theft by Unlawful Taking, Theft by Deception, misdemeanor 3 Simple Assaults, Possession of a Small Amount of Marijuana, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Possession of a Controlled Substance, and other various misdemeanor 2 and misdemeanor 3 offenses.
This new law is going to provide relief to many individuals who until this point have had a criminal conviction potentially holding them back in life. If you feel you may be eligible for a limited expungement under this new law, you should seek the advice of an attorney to examine your case. Chad W. Zimmermann, our Criminal Defense attorney at Chan & Associates would be happy to meet with you and discuss your options. Visit us at our Lancaster office, and review our website.