Limiting the Stigma of a Criminal Record

New Developments in Pennsylvania Expungement Law – Limiting the Stigma
of a Criminal Record

Arrest records and certain convictions pose hardships to the arrestees long after the criminal proceedings have concluded. A significant percentage of the population face license suspensions, immigration complications and firearm disabilities, among an array of collateral consequences endured by them, that foreclose career opportunities and exclude them from otherwise available options/benefits. Pennsylvania law does not routinely provide for expungement after a set period of time and the presence of such arrest/prosecution data associated with an individual’s identity can haunt him/her for a lifetime. Pennsylvania law, under the popular name of “Criminal History Record Information Act,” addresses the management and use of criminal history record information including circumstances under which same can be expunged. Over the past several years the expungement law has been relaxed making relief possible for those who previously were unable to successfully remove this information from government-based criminal record databases.

In 2008, by amendment to the Criminal History Record Information Act, the circumstances under which conviction-based offenses were authorized to be expunged were expanded from the limited two scenarios: 1) when an individual is at least 70 and had been arrest free and prosecution free for ten years following final release from confinement or supervision and 2) where the individual whose conviction was to be expunged had been dead for at least three years. Those individuals with summary convictions were authorized to have such records expunged so long as they had been free of arrest or prosecution for five years. A few years earlier, those with underage drinking convictions had been authorized to receive expungements for such convictions (relating to purchase, consumption, possession or transportation of liquor or malt or brewed beverages) upon turning the age of 21 if the violation happened while they were 18 or older and where all terms and conditions of such sentence and/or suspension had been satisfied.

Where the Pennsylvania convictions are not limited to convictions for summary offenses, the least serious classification of crimes, Act 5 of 2016 will offer relief to an expanded class of individuals with misdemeanor-graded offense convictions consisting of misdemeanors of the second degree (M2), misdemeanors of the third degree (M3) and ungraded misdemeanors carrying maximum sentences of no more than two years should they seek to have entered a court order by the designated Court of Common Pleas for limited access to such records provided that the conviction or final release from confinement or supervision, whichever is later, was over ten years ago subject to exclusions for those with convictions of offenses punishable by imprisonment of more than two years, those with convictions for four or more offenses punishable by imprisonment of one year or more and certain specifically enumerated offenses set forth in the Act. The relief is effective beginning November 14, 2016 for such individuals with the misdemeanor conviction(s) designated that would permit a sealing order limiting the extent to which the criminal justice agencies possessing the conviction record may release such information to third parties to be obtained.

If the existence of a prior conviction or arrest record has hampered your life and livelihood, take advantage of our initial free consultation to discuss the options available, not only as to criminal record expungements, but as to Protection from Abuse Act petition expungements, Juvenile Court record expungements and child abuse record expungements..