Pennsylvania Broadens Expungement Law

We often receive calls from people looking to have their record expunged.  Typically, the conviction is for a relatively minor misdemeanor from their college or young adult years.  The conviction comes up whenever a background check has been done and, at best, causes them considerable embarrassment.  At worst, it gives a potential employer a reason not to extend a job offer.

Until yesterday, we would have the unhappy duty of telling these folks that if they were convicted of a misdemeanor we couldn’t help them until they reached age 70.  That changed yesterday when Governor Wolf signed Act 5 of 2016 into law.

Now, if someone has been convicted of a second- or third-degree misdemeanor, or an ungraded misdemeanor punishable by no more than two years in jail, and they haven’t been arrested for ten years since their sentence expired, they can seek an Order for Limited Access.  If the Court issues the Order, the person no longer has to disclose the conviction except when requested by law enforcement or other government agencies that need to conduct criminal background checks (such as the Department of Human Services, formerly known as the Department of Public Welfare).

Expungement isn’t automatic, and there are a few exceptions, notably simple assault when it is graded as a second-degree misdemeanor.  But for people with convictions for harassment, criminal mischief, recklessly endangering another person, defiant trespass, minor theft offenses, bad checks, or offenses resulting from common pranks like propulsion of missiles onto a roadway, institutional vandalism, or agricultural vandalism, this new law provides them with a chance to remove a stain or two from their record.

If you or someone you know would like to take advantage of this new law, give us a call.

Comments 4

  1. I heard about this. I have a question, I have a misdemeanor 1 on my record from 1985. it was for corruption morals of a minor. it should of never happened I know and I didn’t get a lawyer at the time. so do you think I should go ahead with getting my record expunged? thanks so much.

    1. Post

      Unfortunately, the new law only applies to second- and third-degree misdemeanors. People with first-degree misdemeanors on their record have to wait until age 70 to petition for expungement. The other alternative is to request a pardon, which is a very lengthy process.

  2. I have a question? Someone I know has two misdemeanors one for simple assault and the other is for receiving stolen property could they get their record expunged? They have not been in trouble with the law at all since 2001.

    1. Post

      Simple assault is one of the exceptions to the new law, but only if it was graded as a second-degree misdemeanor. If your friend was convicted for simple assault as a third-degree misdemeanor (which is sometimes called mutual affray or mutual combat) and s/he has been free from arrest or conviction for at least ten years, then the simple assault could be expunged. Regardless of whether the simple assault can be expunged or not, your friend can still try to get the receiving stolen property charge expunged.

      Remember though, the new law doesn’t guarantee expungement, it just gives you a chance. DAs will have a chance to oppose these requests and I suspect that they will in a number of cases.

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