A few weeks ago, we wrote about the weaknesses of Pennsylvania’s expungement law. As you’ll recall, expungement is the process by which someone convicted of certain crimes may be able to have governmental records of that event wiped clean from the system (For more on expungement generally, see this site’s primer here). Senate Bill 166, passed unanimously out of the State Senate and now winding its way through the Judiciary Committee of the State House of Representatives, promises to close some of those gaps. Those following the legislation closely will recall that the State Senate passed this same bill in the prior legislative session, but that bill died in the State House.
As it stands, expungement is generally available to those over 70 who have had clear records for more than ten years since being released from confinement. Similarly, after three years of being deceased (yes, you read that right), someone you leave behind can similarly seek to have your criminal record erased. Under existing law, summary offenses can be expunged if you remain free from arrest for five years post-conviction and crimes for which you are not convicted can generally be expunged.
SB 166 expands the class of crimes that are eligible for expungement to include convictions of certain misdemeanors of the third degree, and certain misdemeanors of the second degree for those whose convictions occurred prior to their 25th birthday. The bill expressly excludes some crimes such as victim intimidation, cruelty to animals, 2nd Degree Misdemeanor Assaults, failure to register under sexual offender provisions, and firearm offenses. A person must remain free from arrest or prosecution for at least seven years, in the case of third degree misdemeanor conviction, and ten years for second degree misdemeanor conviction when the individual was under twenty-five years of age at the time of the offense.
In Philadelphia alone, some 300,000 individuals have criminal records, often dating back decades from youthful mistakes or who in any case have paid their debt to society and have amended their former ways. That is 20% of the population in Philadelphia who may be unable to find work and suffer from any number of other serious collateral consequences stemming from their conviction.
Believe it or not, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association is a firm supporter of the bill and multiple District Attorneys have spoken out in its favor.
To speak to a Fairlie and Lippy attorney about how your previous conviction, or that of someone you know, may be affected by this bill should it pass, or to generally see if you may be eligible for expungement, contact us today for a free consultation.