Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Senate Bill 166: an opportunity for a clean slate

              On February 16, 2016, Governor Tom Wolf made an important decision that could impact the lives of many Pennsylvania residents.  Pennsylvania Senate Bill 166 will afford residents who have committed low level first time offenses sealed.  SB 166 goes into effect on November 14, 2016. Pennsylvania joins twenty seven other states that will permit expungement or sealing of some non-violent misdemeanor offenses.

            Prior to the enactment of Senate Bill 166, the ability to have one’s criminal record expunged or sealed was extremely limited.  Summary offenses, charges that resulted in a non-conviction and few juvenile crimes were the only charges that could be expunged. A Governor’s pardon, a seldom used remedy, was the only other possibility for clearing a criminal conviction.

 A criminal record can have lifelong ramifications, adversely affecting employment, housing, and/or education.  The bill was introduced by Senator Stewart Greenleaf, who stated “a low-level misdemeanor in one’s past is often a barrier when seeking employment, long after they have completed their sentence”. The new law will give certain non-violent criminal offenders the opportunity to hit the reset button and start with a clean slate.

            SB 166 will allow individuals who have served their punishment and who have remained free of arrest or prosecution for seven to ten years to petition the Court of Common Pleas to have their prior record sealed.  If the petition is granted by the Court, the prior record will be removed from public view. 

            Certain second-degree, third-degree and ungraded misdemeanors will be eligible to be sealed. Simple Assault will be ineligible to be sealed, unless it is ungraded or a misdemeanor of the third-degree. Sealed records will be available for law enforcement purposes but will not be available for the public and individuals will not need to disclose the sealed records for employment purposes.

            Should you have any questions about this new, very important law, please contact Davis & Davis.  We will do all we can to help you realize the benefits of Senate Bill 166.

                                     ----   Jeremy J. Davis, Esquire

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