A new Pennsylvania law, called Act 5, offers a chance for some people with criminal records to have this information sealed or expunged. This new law is effective as of November 5th of this year. The Philadelphia Bar Association is partnering with other organizations to host a free three-hour clinic for residents who qualify to have their information sealed or expunged.
The goal of the new law is to allow low-income residents the opportunity to pursue housing, education and employment that may not be available as long as they have a criminal record. For these people, having this information removed can dramatically improve their quality of life and reduce the chance of a relapse into criminal behavior. While this is not available to all people and for all charges, it provides help to those who committed minor offenses many years ago.
Qualifications for sealing or expunging criminal records
According to the Philadelphia Bar Association, participants must meet specific qualifications to have their records sealed or expunged. The following criteria must be met for certain convictions to have records expunged:
- The charges were dropped or dismissed, or you were declared not guilty.
- You completed an accelerated rehabilitative disposition (ARD)/Section 17 program and paid the fine.
- You were convicted of a summary conviction and at least five years have passed since your last conviction.
- You are over 70 years old and at least 10 years have passed since your last conviction.
To have your records sealed from the public for certain convictions, the criteria include:
- Convicted of a second or third-degree misdemeanor offense.
- At least 10 years have passed since you completed your sentence for your last conviction.
- You have never been convicted of more serious crimes such as a felony, second-degree simple assault, or first-degree misdemeanor.
- You have less than four misdemeanor convictions on your record.
- All fines and costs associated with the case have been paid.
In order to qualify for the free clinic, you must first meet the above criteria for your convictions. Additionally, the financial requirements are that individuals earn less than $25,000 and families less than $50,000 per year. While the process generally takes up to a year to complete after filing the paperwork, clinic attendees may be able to have their records expunged or sealed on site.
This new law offers a second chance for those who have turned their lives around since their last offense. Convictions that may qualify to be sealed include DUI offenses, drug possession and minor theft. If you are unable to attend the free clinic or do not meet financial constraints to attend, you may still qualify to have your records sealed or expunged. Contact one of our knowledgeable attorneys for more information.