Expansion of Sealing Criminal Records in Pennsylvania
Criminal convictions can continue to cause problems professionally and personally long after you have satisfied any criminal penalties. A pre-employment background check that reveals your prior conviction can make finding new employment extremely difficult. Additionally, the availability of personal information on the internet means that people you’ve just met can easily find out about your criminal history. The State of Pennsylvania passed a law last year that can help to mitigate these effects by opening up some of the benefits of criminal record sealments to a much wider range of offenses.
If you have been convicted of a criminal offense in Pennsylvania and want to know more about sealing your criminal record, contact a Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer at our firm.
Call us at (412) 281-2146 to find out how we can help you with the record sealing process.
Expanded Criminal Record Sealing Through Senate Bill 166
Senate Bill 166 was signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf on February 16, 2016. It provides for an expansion of criminal record sealing in Pennsylvania. SB 166 was designed to expand the provisions for criminal record sealing to include individuals with nonviolent misdemeanors who had served their punishment and remained free of arrest or prosecution for 10 years.
In signing the law, Governor Wolf stated that SB 166 was an “unprecedented step to help Pennsylvanians with minor or dated criminal records have a fighting chance at opportunities for gainful employment.” The bill became effective 270 days after the Governor’s signature and has been in operation since November 2016.
Orders for Limited Access
The new law does not provide for actual expungement of a person’s criminal record, but instead allows for the court of common pleas to enter an order that criminal history record information be disseminated only to a criminal justice agency or certain government agencies. If a conviction is subject to an order for limited access the individual would not be required to disclose criminal history records about that conviction and could not be required to disclose the information. An exception to the disclosure restriction is made for criminal justice agencies and certain government agencies.
If your criminal conviction is subject to an order for limited access it would no longer appear in a background check and you would not need to disclose the conviction when applying for employment.
Requirements for an Order for Limited Access
For an order for limited access to be granted, the conviction must be for a second-degree misdemeanor, third-degree misdemeanor or an upgraded offense with a maximum penalty of no more than two years. If the person remains free of arrest or prosecution for 10 years after conviction or completion of the criminal sentence, whichever is later, they may then petition the court of common pleas in the jurisdiction where the conviction occurred for an order for limited access regarding that conviction.
Exceptions to the Availability of Orders for Limited Access
The law does prevent individuals who have been convicted of certain crimes at any point in time from being granted an order for limited access- even if they have another conviction that would be eligible for the order. For instance, an individual convicted of an offense that is punishable by imprisonment of more than two years would not be able to obtain an order for limited access even if a later conviction would be eligible. Other offenses that prevent the availability of an order include offenses that require registration as a sex offender, offenses related to impersonating a public servant, and offenses relating to intimidation of witnesses.
How Skilled Pittsburgh Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help
Obtaining an order for limited access may help to mitigate the damage caused by misdemeanor convictions, but it still means that the conviction will remain public knowledge for over a decade. The surest way to prevent the negative impacts of a criminal conviction is to avoid the conviction in the first place. In order to do that, you need an experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer on your side.
The criminal defense lawyers at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC have represented hundreds of clients on a wide range of criminal charges and have worked hard to provide the best possible outcome in each case.
Call (412) 281-2146 for a free and confidential consultation with a Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney today.