Pennsylvania’s New Expungement and Pardon Laws
Roughly 1 in 3 Americans have a criminal record. There have been laws passed to limit the use of these records by employers, colleges and other to deny opportunities to Americans. Expungement, defined in 42 Pa.C.S. 9102, as removal of criminal information so that there is no trace or indication that the information exists. Expungement is available when the citizens files an expungement motion, a hearing is held, and the court orders expungement of the citizen’s record.
The decision to grant or deny expungement lies within the discretion of the court. The court will balance the competing interests of the petitioner and the Commonwealth. The statute also prohibits the court from expungement of cases for the following crimes:
18 Pa.C.S. 3121 (Rape)
18 Pa.C.S. 3122.1 (Statutory Sexual Assault)
18 Pa.C.S. 3123 (Involuntary Deviate Sexual Assault)
18 Pa.C.S. 3124.1 (Sexual Assault)
18 Pa.C.S. 3125 (Aggravated Indecent Sexual Assault)
18. Pa.C.S. 3127 (Indecent Exposure)
18 Pa.C.S. 5902 (child pornography).
Expungement of summary offenses is governed by Rule 490 of the criminal rules of criminal procedure. Expungement of court cases is governed by Rule 790. Forms are available at www.pacourts.us/forms/for-the-public.
Before November of 2016, Expungement was only available for summary offenses. Beginning in November, 2016, Pennsylvanians will be able to seal the records of 2nd and 3rd Degree Misdemeanors and ungraded misdemeanors, such as possession of controlled substance and DUI. Sealing will be available to Pennsylvanians after a ten-year waiting period, during which the petitioner has not been arrested or prosecuted for another offense.
People with certain convictions, including simple assault (except 3rd Degree), four or more offenses punishable by imprisonment of one or more years, and any offense punishable by more than two years’ imprisonment are ineligible for expungement.
Sealed records will be unavailable to the public, including private employers, landlords, and, unless requested by an agency that is authorized, “no individual shall be required nor requested to disclose information about the person’s sealed criminal history records”.
to whom disclosure is already authorized, “no individual shall be required nor requested to disclose information about the person’s [sealed] criminal history records.”
Twin “Clean Slate” bills introduced in April 2016 would follow up on last year’s sealing bill by making make sealing automatic upon satisfaction of an eligibility waiting period: Ten years for misdemeanors, five years for summary offenses, and seven years for juvenile adjudications. Sealing of non-conviction records will be automatic and immediate. The bills would also eliminate the exception under the current law that allows for most occupational and licensing boards to consider records that have been sealed. According to Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, both bills have received broad bi-partisan support, and indeed the Senate passed its bill unanimously not long after its introduction.
A Pardon is and act by the governor of Pennsylvania that erases your conviction from your criminal record. Prior to November 2016, the only way a felony or misdemeanor could be eliminated was pardon, never by expungement. Anyone is eligible to ask for a pardon, but usually those who have a minor offense can have remained law abiding for 5 years, or serious offenses who have remained law abiding for 10 years are most those granted. The process is started by sending a short letter to the Board of Pardons requesting a hearing. Documents such as your certified criminal and driving records, letters of recommendation and other evidence of law abiding actions should be included. Most important, you should include a statement of why you think you should be pardoned. It takes about two years for the Board of Pardons to send an agent to interview you and gather other information. The application and agent’s report and other documentation is reviewed by the Lt. Governor, a victim representative, a corrections expert and a psychologist. It will take an additional year for the Board to issue its opinion on whether you should be pardoned. The Governor of Pennsylvania makes the final decision on pardon. If the petitioner is granted a pardon, he/she must then file for expungement in the court in which they were convicted.
Call the Kilgus Law Offices, LLC for help with expungement and pardon.