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New Law Passed Some Nonviolent Misdemeanors May Be Sealed

In Pennsylvania, a conviction for some misdemeanors no longer necessarily means a lifetime of regret, or an impediment to employment, housing, education or simply just a source of embarrassment. Like summary offenses, some nonviolent misdemeanors of the second and third degree also now may be sealed, or expunged.

A bipartisan bill that would eliminate the ill effects of a solo blemish on an otherwise clean criminal record was recently signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf while representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association looked on in support of the new measure.

The legislation, formerly known as Senate Bill 166, will allow individuals who have served a sentence for nonviolent second – or third – degree misdemeanors to petition the court to seal that criminal record from public view after at least seven years without a new offense. Even if sealed, criminal justice and government agencies would still be able to see a person’s entire criminal record.

“This gives a second chance to people with truly minor criminal records,” Gov. Wolf said before signing the bill. “This is clearly good for the individual when their record is sealed, it is good for their families and it is good for companies [who will be their potential employers].”

State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, who sponsored the legislation, noted that a federal study showed that there are 550 obstacles created in life if you are convicted of a crime in Pennsylvania.

“This affects education funding, loans, housing, and jobs,” Senator Greenleaf said. “This is all about getting people reintegrated into society.”

He said Pennsylvania will benefit because the bill will counter high rates of recidivism, will relieve an overburdened pardon system, and will provide ex­offenders a chance to join the workforce and be productive citizens.

Second-degree misdemeanors include such crimes as false swearing in official matters, bigamy and impersonating a public servant, among other crimes. The maximum sentence for conviction of a second-degree misdemeanor is up to two years in prison and a fine of no more than $5,000.

Third-degree misdemeanors include certain types of disorderly conduct, loitering and prowling at night, and open lewdness, among other crimes. The maximum sentence for a conviction on a third-degree misdemeanor is up to one year of incarceration and a fine of no more than $2,500.

If you think that you might qualify under the new law, call Purchase, George & Murphey, P.C., P.C. to learn more at (814)-833-7100.

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