New Pennsylvania Law May Now Allow Expungement of Misdemeanor Offenses
Can You Now Have Your Criminal Record Expunged?
One of the biggest concerns an individual may have during a criminal prosecution is, “Will this criminal charge be on my record forever?” The answer is usually yes, but there are some exceptions where criminal charges can be cleared from your record and will not show up on things like credit reports or background checks. This process is usually referred to as “expungement”.
Currently, the law in Pennsylvania states that an expungement may only be achieved in connection with a conviction of a summary offense (not a misdemeanor or felony offense). Of course, if the case results in a dismissal or a verdict of not guilty, the offense is eligible for expungement. Any conviction or guilty plea for a misdemeanor or felony offense will remain on your permanent criminal record.
However, a new Pennsylvania Senate Bill introduced in January, 2016 will allow for an ‘Order of Limited Access’ to be issued by the Court of Common Pleas concerning certain non-violent misdemeanor offenses following a post-conviction period of ten years that is arrest free.
Note that an ‘Order for Limited Access’ means that the criminal record information maintained by a criminal justice agency may only be disseminated to another criminal justice agency or governmental agency.
In other words, it is not an ‘expungement’ in that the records are not destroyed. However, the Bill precludes access to other agencies seeking such information (e.g. certain employers, online companies, educational agencies, etc.). The Bill outlines the following as conditions for eligibility to obtain an ‘Order for Limited Access’ concerning these misdemeanor offenses:
- The offense at issue must be graded as an M2, M3 or an ungraded Misdemeanor which carries a maximum possible sentence of 2 years.
- The post-conviction time period is an arrest-free 10 years.
- The offense at issue must be non-violent in nature.
As with many laws, there are certain exceptions. The exceptions for eligibility that have been outlined are as follows:
- An offense punishable by imprisonment of more than 2 years;
- An individual who has been convicted of 4 or more offenses punishable by imprisonment of 1 or more years;
- Simple Assault, except when graded as an M3;
- Sexual Intercourse with an Animal;
- Impersonating a Public Servant;
- Intimidation of a Witness/Victim;
- Retaliation Against a Witness/Victim;
- Intimidation, Retaliation, and/or Obstruction in child abuse cases; and,
- Any offense requiring sexual offender registration.
The Act will take effect 270 days from February 16, 2016. The new cost associated with the expungement filing fee will be $132.00 payable to the Clerk of Courts.
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