Pennsylvania Expands Criminal Records that are Eligible to be Sealed

On February 16, 2016 Governor Wolf signed into law Senate Bill 166, which is designed to expand the scope of criminal records eligible for sealing by the courts. The goal is to provide ex-offenders with greater opportunities to secure better jobs, expand housing options, increase education and training possibilities and promote the promise of being able to obtain a productive and fulfilling place in society following their rehabilitation. This law takes effect on November 14, 2016.

The types of crimes that are eligible for sealing are older and minor offenses, such as disorderly conduct, minor theft, and low level drug possession. Convictions of crimes that are classified as an Ungraded Misdemeanor, a 3rd Degree Misdemeanor and most 2nd Degree Misdemeanors can be eligible for sealing under this expansion. To be eligible, an individual cannot have any convictions for any felony, 1st Degree Misdemeanor or any simple assault, the individual cannot have four or more misdemeanor convictions of any level on their record, and at least ten years must have passed since completion of the sentence (including payment of all fines and costs) for the record sought to be sealed.

Qualifying records can be sealed by petitioning the court. There is a $132.00 fee that will be required at the time of filing the petition. The petition must be filed in the Court of Common Pleas where the conviction occurred.

Once a criminal record is sealed under the law, no individual is required to disclose information about the criminal record that has been sealed and no one is permitted to require the individual to divulge any information about any sealed record. The exceptions to this are that law enforcement agencies will still be entitled to see the sealed records and licensing agencies are permitted access to the sealed records. The sealing of the records will prevent non-criminal justice agencies, individuals or entities from having access to the sealed records, such as employers and potential employers, housing agencies and financial institutions.

This expansion recognizes that many individuals in the Commonwealth experience a lifetime of consequences by having to report low-level offenses in many aspects of their lives. By recognizing that most of these individuals have been able to learn from their past instance of poor judgment and put together otherwise law-abiding and responsible lives, this expansion will permit these individuals to finally put that haunting part of their history behind them and only look forward to the opportunities available to them.

This article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended as or a substitute for legal advice. Should you have a question about this topic please contact attorney Christopher E. Fisher of Saidis, Sullivan & Rogers. The attorneys at Saidis, Sullivan & Rogers are skilled in a variety of practice areas, including business, real estate, estate planning, litigation and family law. To learn more about Saidis, Sullivan & Rogers and their attorneys visit us at www.ssr-attorneys.com.