Can I Have a Misdemeanor Charge Sealed in Pennsylvania?
A criminal record can impact a person in many ways. Numerous entities request a criminal background check as part of the application process (i.e. college, scholarships, jobs, housing, professional licenses, etc.). This means they will be able to view your criminal record and use it in their decision regarding your application. A new Pennsylvania law gives people a second chance to make a good first impression.
Senate Bill 166
A new law known as Senate Bill 166 was signed by Governor Tom Wolf in February 2016 that allows people to have certain misdemeanors sealed from view. According to Gov. Wolf, “This law is a commonsense, positive, and unprecedented step to help Pennsylvanians with minor or dated criminal records have a fighting chance at opportunities for gainful employment.”
The bill allows people who have been convicted of second and third degree misdemeanors to petition the court to have the conviction sealed. This means the general public would not have access to the information about the crime or even see that it exists, but government agencies and criminal justice organizations would still be able to access the records.
The Requirements For Sealing A Criminal Conviction
To be eligible for the protection Senate Bill 166 provides, the misdemeanor must have been a second or third-degree offense. Only non-violent offenses will be considered. The person must have completed the sentence imposed by the court for the conviction and the person must not have been charged with a new criminal offense for at least seven years after the conviction. It applies only to a single conviction. Anyone with multiple convictions would not be eligible under this law.
Examples of second-degree misdemeanors that may be eligible under the new law include charges of bigamy or impersonating a public servant. Third-degree misdemeanors that may be eligible under the new law include open lewdness, certain types of disorderly conduct, and loitering. There are several other misdemeanors that qualify to be sealed under this new expanded criminal record sealing law.
Second-degree misdemeanors carry a maximum sentence of two years in prison and a $5,000 fine. For third-degree misdemeanors, the maximum sentence is up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500.
The Benefits Of Sealing A Criminal Record
According to a federal study, there are 550 ways a criminal conviction can impact a person. A criminal conviction can limit you at every turn and keep you from pursuing a higher-quality of life. By passing this law, the state is offering you a better chance to achieve your goals without a past mistake haunting you forever and impeding your efforts. The state also benefits from the expanded criminal record sealing because it relieves a pardon system that is already overburdened.
What You Need To Do If You Want Your Criminal Record Sealed
If you were convicted of a second or third-degree misdemeanor charge, you can find out if you qualify to have the conviction sealed or expunged from your record by contacting our office to discuss your criminal conviction. Our Erie criminal defense attorney will review your case to determine if your conviction qualifies under Senate Bill 166.
We will prepare and file the petition and represent you in court to ensure you have the best chance at a positive result. Because this is such an important step in improving your life and expanding your future options, you need to work with an Erie criminal defense attorney who can provide sound legal advice and counsel.
Contact The Travis Law Firm toll free at (800) 401-2066 to schedule a free consultation with one of our Erie criminal defense attorneys. We represent clients throughout Northwestern Pennsylvania with offices located in Erie, Edinboro, and Warren.