We’ve written extensively on this blog about how mistakes that lead to an arrest or conviction can haunt a person for life. It can make it harder to find an apartment, get a job or enroll in college. That is why helping people who’ve served their sentences remain productive members of society is one of the biggest components of the criminal justice reform conversation happening nationally.
Pennsylvania currently allows certain people to expunge criminal convictions. However, this law is quite restrictive. If you have a prior conviction on your record, you likely already know that seeking and receiving an expungement can cost precious time and money that can be hard to come by when trying to make ends meet.
However, new legislation signed into law late last month will make the state a national leader in making it easier to get the clean slate that so many people deserve.
About the new law
The game-changing feature of the new law is a requirement for automatic record sealing for second- and third-degree misdemeanor convictions where the jail sentence was for two years or less. Arrests that never resulted in conviction will also be automatically sealed. To qualify, a person will need to avoid any other convictions for 10 years.
This can include convictions for:
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
- Disorderly conduct
The bill also expands the expungement program to allow people to petition to court to seal any nonviolent misdemeanor conviction where the prison sentence was for a year or more, provided the person avoids conviction for 10 years
Violent crimes and those involving endangerment of children will not qualify.
The automatic record sealing feature of the law will save thousands of people time, money and stress. It will also allow them to get their lives back on track faster. With your record automatically sealed, you will no longer have to check the box on a job application that asks if you have a conviction on your record. It means when you pay your debt, it’s paid.