Governor Tom Wolf today signed into law Senate Bill 166 which will expand the range of crimes which may be expunged from criminal records. While this is good news for many within the Commonwealth, the law will not go into effect until 270 days from now. This means that courts will begin to process the new set of expungements starting mid-November 2016. The new law will expand the availability for expungement of certain offenses. Expungement is the process of destroying and deleting criminal records maintained by the government. It is important to note that the new law does not provide for that kind of expungement, involving destruction of records, but it does permit them to be sealed from being shown to potential employers.
When three years have passed from the date of a person’s arrest, there was no conviction for the arrest, and no proceedings are pending for the arrest, a person can have all notations of arrests, indictments, or other information related to the initiation of criminal proceedings sealed from their record before it is disseminated to an individual or noncriminal justice agency. Even better is the fact that an individual who has been free from arrest or prosecution following a conviction or final release from confinement or supervision (whichever is later) for a period of 10 years can petition the court to restrict the dissemination of certain offenses only to criminal justice agencies or certain licensing agencies. What does this mean for you? This means that if you have been free from arrest for 10 years you can have your conviction record for a misdemeanor of the second degree, misdemeanor of the third degree, or an ungraded misdemeanor which carries a maximum penalty of no more than 2 years restricted from dissemination to potential employers. This will reduce the potential barriers that people often face when applying for employment when they have long since fulfilled their debt for the crime for which they were convicted.
Certain offenses are exempt from this new expansion. Exceptions include offenses punishable by imprisonment for more than 2 years (which includes all first degree misdemeanors); convictions for simple assault graded as a misdemeanor of the second degree or greater; crimes related to sexual intercourse with an animal (we have never heard of a conviction for this crime); and impersonation of a public servant under §4912. Additionally, individuals convicted of witness intimidation and retaliation against a witness under §§ 4952, 4953, and 4958 will not be afforded the ability to restrict the dissemination of their records. Finally, any offense which requires registration of sexual offenders under 42 Pa. C.S. chapter 97 sub chapter H will be exempt from the expansion of the new expungement law.
If you fit the criteria for having your criminal record restricted or eliminated from public record, call our office to discuss your situation with one of our attorneys. A professional can help you navigate the waters of the new law and will be able to answer your questions regarding the scope of coverage. Keep in mind that although the Bill has been signed into law, it will not become effective until 270 days after passage. Contact our office in September to get a jump on the process and beat the crowds and associated backlogs that will surely ensue.