Expungement and Limited Access to Criminal Records:
What you need to know!
As of November 14, 2016, a new Pennsylvania law will limit public access to criminal records for certain individuals previously convicted with crimes. Those individuals, who have successfully completed the terms of their sentence and have remained crime free for at least 10 years, may benefit from this new law and may qualify to have their criminal record sealed.
Sealing Minor Criminal Records
Individuals may petition the courts for an order limiting access to information about certain second and third degree misdemeanors. Pennsylvania currently has existing expungement laws that delete and remove certain information from public view. The primary goal of this new law is to seal records of minor crimes to remove barriers to employment, housing and education.
What is ” Expungement”?
In Pennsylvania, all criminal and summary cases filed with a court, including those that do not result in convictions, are posted online for public viewing. These cases may also be reported by consumer reporting agencies. An expungement is a legal order that destroys and removes a criminal record from public view and restricts access to law-enforcement agencies.
What information is eligible for expungement?
Pennsylvania allows all offenses that resulted in no conviction to be expunged. This includes being found not guilty of charges, as well as information about charges that are withdrawn or dismissed and not prosecuted “nolle prossed.” In addition, charges that lead to involvement in a diversionary program such as ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition) can be expunged if the program is successfully completed. Information of an offense that resulted in a conviction is eligible for expungement if one of the following conditions is met:
· The conviction is a summary offense and the individual has not been arrested for five or more years. For example, disorderly conduct, simple trespass, public consumption of alcoholic beverages and retail theft (if it is a first offense and the value of the merchandise is less than $150).
· The individual is over age 70 and has not been arrested for 10 or more years.
· The subject of the expungement petition has been dead for three years or more.
· The individual receives a pardon from the governor for a conviction.
What are the changes in the 2016 law that limit access to criminal records?
The amended law limits access to information about some misdemeanor convictions to specific entities such as law enforcement and state licensing agencies. The limited-access provision can be requested for second or third-degree misdemeanor convictions, provided that the responsible individual has completed all punishment and has had a clear record for at least 10 years. Second and third degree misdemeanors include crimes such as criminal trespassing, vandalism and indecent assault. The law excludes some individuals from the limited-access process; for example, offenses punishable by more than two years in prison, four or more offenses punishable by one or more years in jail, some subsets of misdemeanor simple-assault offenses, some subsets of sex-crimes offenses, some subsets of witness-intimidation offenses and offenses that require Megan’s Law registration are excluded.
Record Sealing Checklist
A person must be free from charge, arrest and conviction for at least 10 years.
A person who meets the 10-year condition can NEVER have been convicted of:
- Any offense punishable by a term of more than 2 years imprisonment.
- 4 or more offenses that are punishable by a term of 1 year or more of imprisonment.
- Simple assault, UNLESS graded M3.
- Impersonating a public servant.
- Any offense requiring registration as a sexual offender, (this includes sexual intercourse with animals, even if not registered as a sexual offender).
- Retaliation, intimidation, and/or obstruction relating to a victim, witness, party or child abuse case.
What is the process to obtain limited access to criminal records?
If you qualify for this relief, you must file a petition with the court of common pleas in the county where the case was filed. Once the petition is filed, the district attorney’s office receives notice and has an opportunity to file an objection. Ultimately the judge assigned to the matter will decide whether to grant or deny the petition.
We can assist you with the expungement or sealing process from petition to hearing to notifying all agencies of the expungement or sealing and removal of any criminal record history.
To schedule a FREE consultation,
Nancy Marchese, Pa.C.P.