In October 2020, the Pennsylvania General Assembly approved House Bill 440, allowing individuals residing within Pennsylvania to put their criminal records behind them where hurdles existed before.

In the past, if those with criminal offenses wanted to get their records sealed, they may face financial obligations before qualifying. However, under House Bill 440, these parties are no longer required to meet these financial obligations before becoming eligible for record sealing. A good criminal process lawyer can help you determine if you may qualify for record sealing.


What Are the Clean Slate Policies?

Since 2016, there have been measure updates to Pennsylvania’s record sealing laws. Individuals with misdemeanor offenses on their records may be eligible to clear their names and protect their future education, career, and professional opportunities.

Some of the most notable updates to the record sealing laws include:

  • Cases that have been pardoned will automatically be sealed
  • Those who receive a pardon from the governor can seek expungement
  • Individuals who have received full acquittals will receive automatic expungements

Generally, Pennsylvania’s clean slate policies allow for the automatic record sealing of the following:

  • Any criminal offense that did not result in a conviction
  • Any misdemeanor conviction once it has been ten years since the conviction
  • After ten years, summary offense convictions are eligible for record sealing

It is estimated that Pennsylvania’s clean slate laws have sealed nearly 36 million criminal offenses. Outstanding court debts can prevent individuals from getting misdemeanor convictions sealed.

However, with HB 440, those eligible for record sealing but owed the court debt will now be eligible for record sealing.


Who Qualifies to Seal Records?

A person convicted for a second-degree misdemeanor, third-degree misdemeanor, or ungraded misdemeanor who has been free of arrest or prosecution for the past ten years is eligible.

The 10-year wait period does not start until probation, parole, or another supervision is completed. Anyone who has ever been convicted of one of the following offenses is not eligible:

  • Ungraded misdemeanor punishable by more than two years
  • Four or more misdemeanor offenses
  • Sexual Intercourse with an Animal
  • Obstruction of Child Abuse Case
  • A conviction that requires Meghan’s Law (sex offender) registration
  • Retaliation Against a Witness
  • Intimidation of Witnesses
  • Impersonating a Public Servant or
  • A second-degree misdemeanor for Simple Assault

What Convictions Can Be Sealed in Pennsylvania?

Certain convictions cannot be sealed even if they are second, third, or ungraded misdemeanors. The law also clearly disqualifies simple assault convictions unless it was a third-degree or ungraded misdemeanor.

Typical offenses that may be sealed under the new law include first offense DUI, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and certain theft, trespassing and firearm offenses.


How Do Records Get Sealed?

An eligible person can petition the Court of Common Pleas in the county where the guilty plea or verdict took place. The District Attorney’s Office has 30 days to consent or object.

If the District Attorney’s Office objects, a hearing will occur before a judge. If the District Attorney’s Office does not object, the Order will be granted, and notice of the sealed Order will be submitted to the appropriate agencies.

It is important to remember that the purpose of the law is not to delete or erase a criminal record. The purpose of the law is to seal a case from public access after successfully showing years of law-abiding behavior.


Is the New Bill Retroactive?

Pennsylvania’s new record sealing laws will only apply to individuals who meet the requirements. Individuals previously convicted of certain misdemeanor offenses may be eligible for expungement. This does not necessarily mean that criminals who may threaten society are being given a clean slate.

Instead, it allows those otherwise law-abiding members of society to put past mistakes behind them. The vast majority of violent, sex, and firearm offenses are still and will continue to be ineligible for record sealing in Pennsylvania.


Call a Chester County Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

Call the Skinner Law Firm attorneys if you are interested in sealing or expunging a criminal record in Chester County, PA.

We also help clients seal or expunge a record throughout the surrounding areas of Pennsylvania. Call (610) 436-1410 to speak directly with an attorney to discuss your case or schedule your appointment online.

 

 

Article Author

Michael J. Skinner, the founder of Skinner Law Firm LLC, is a former prosecutor with the Chester County District Attorney’s Office.

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