Governor Wolf recently signed an important new piece of legislation which will allow many individuals with prior convictions to have those convictions removed from their record. The new law, formerly known as Senate Bill 166, will allow individuals to petition the Court of Common Pleas where the conviction occurred to have the conviction sealed pursuant to an order of limited access.
The effect of this order will be to prohibit the disclosure of the conviction to anyone other than criminal justice agencies or state licensing boards. As a result, sealed convictions will no longer be available on the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts’ public docket website which requires nothing more than an individual’s name to find their criminal record. Although not guaranteed, it will also make it far less likely that the conviction will show up on a routine background check. Further, the new law only allows criminal justice and state licensing agencies to ask about convictions subject to a limited access order.
The new bill makes those with a prior conviction for a non-violent ungraded, second degree, or third degree misdemeanor eligible for a limited access order if they did not incur any new arrests in the ten years following the misdemeanor conviction. This means that the bill will help those who otherwise have stayed out of trouble but may have one prior conviction on their record. It also means that the bill covers many offenses, including a number of first time narcotics offenses for which an individual was not able to obtain a diversionary program like ARD.
Prior to the enactment of Senate Bill 166, expungements were limited to convictions for summary offenses, juvenile adjudications, and arrests that did not result in conviction. The only other option for a person seeking to have a conviction removed from their record was to petition the Governor for a pardon, and pardons are extremely difficult to obtain. With the enactment of this important new legislation, many individuals with misdemeanor convictions will be able to have those convictions removed from their public records, and employers will no longer be allowed to ask about those convictions. This will make it far easier for someone with one older conviction to enter the work force.
If you have a summary conviction or a conviction for an ungraded, second degree, or third degree misdemeanor on your record, contact the criminal lawyers at the Hughes Firm now to discuss the possibility of an expungement or sealing of your record.