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Recent PA law change expands ability to clear criminal record

A recent change to Pennsylvania state law increases the eligibility of Pennsylvanians with certain criminal convictions to seal their criminal record. Governor Tom Wolf stated that the change was made to help give "Pennsylvanians with minor or dated criminal records a fighting chance at gainful employment."

The opportunity to find employment is not the only thing that would be eased for those who can get a sealed record. Opportunities for education and housing would also likely become available.

What types of crimes qualify? Applicants must meet specific criteria to qualify. These include:

  • Type. The conviction or convictions must generally be misdemeanors of the 2nd or 3rd degree.
  • Time. The applicant must not have had an arrest within 10 years prior to applying to seal the record.
  • Paid the price. The applicant must also have already served all associated penalties for the conviction. This includes fines and other costs.

It is important to clarify that certain offenses do not qualify. The Governor was clear to state in a recent press release that offenses that involve sexual assault generally do not qualify. He also clarified that the records are not completely eradicated. They are still available to enforcement officers.

How does an applicant get his or her record sealed? Those who believe they qualify should file a petition with the Court of Common Pleas. This petition requires a variety of information, including the name of the judge that presided over the case, the specific charges and the reasons for the request to seal the records.

Those who are considering filing for relief through this petition or who are wondering if other options are available are wise to seek legal counsel. An experienced criminal defense attorney can discuss the particulars of the process and any other options that may be available for your specific situation.

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