Earlier this year we posted an article discussing that a broader criminal record sealing law will be going into effect later in the year. Well, that time has now come. Starting November 14, 2016 , an individual who has been convicted of certain non-violent 2nd or 3rd degree misdemeanors is able to seek to have his or her record sealed so long as he or she has not had any other conviction within the past ten years. This new law will expand the availability for record sealing to a larger number of offenses.
How Has the Law Changed?
Prior to this new statute being passed, record sealing was only available to a small number of individuals convicted of minor misdemeanors. Under the prior law, record sealing would only be granted to individuals who were 70 years or older, with no additional convictions in the five years prior or if the individual has been deceased for at least three years. Now, individuals convicted of low level offenses will be able to reduce the potential barriers they face when applying for jobs or housing.
Eligible Offenders Under the New Statute
Under the new law, those persons with 2nd and 3rd degree non-violent misdemeanors can seek to have their record sealed so long as they have not committed any other offense within the past ten years. This new law has greatly expanded the list of eligible offenses. These offenses include: substance related offenses such as DUIs and controlled substance possession, larceny, identity theft, and reckless endangerment. While misdemeanors involving violence are not eligible for sealing, simple assault offenses which have been graded as “mutual-combat” 3rd degree misdemeanors are an exception to the ineligibility rule.
Unfortunately for those affected, misdemeanor offenses such as firearm and weapon offenses, sexual acts and cruelty to animals, intimidation and/or retaliation against witnesses, and any offenses requiring Megan’s Law registration or which carry maximum sentences of more than two years are ineligible under the new statute for sealing.
While this new law does not result in the destruction of the criminal record, the statute is intended to benefit those who have fulfilled their debt for their crimes and as such, the record becomes only available to certain government agencies such as local and federal law enforcement as well as prosecutors and judges.
While this law is a step in the right direction for individuals who have truly been rehabilitated, record sealing is not a guarantee. A judge may deny a petition to seal a record if after reviewing the facts of a case, he or she believes the individual applying for the motion is still a danger to society.
If you or a loved one fit the criteria for having your criminal record sealed from the public please call our office to discuss your situation. We handle tons of expungement and sealing cases across Pennsylvania.