Pennsylvania’s New Record Sealing Law: What You Need to Know if You Have a Criminal Record



On February 16, 2016, Governor Wolf signed into law Senate Bill 166, an expansion to Pennsylvania’s dissemination of criminal information laws. Although the law has been widely described as an expansion of the current expungement law, it is, rather, an entirely new statute. The new statute takes effect on November 14, 2016.

Under the new statute, 18 Pa.C.S. 9122.1, an individual with a certain criminal record may petition the court for an Order for “limited access” (i.e. sealing).

If granted, no criminal justice agency (including police stations, jail and prison facilities, probation departments and district attorneys’ offices) may disseminate information about the individual’s criminal conviction to anyone or any agency.

With some exceptions, most misdemeanors of the second and third degree will be expungeable when the new law takes effect in October of 2016.

Another benefit under the new law is that individuals can successfully refuse to disclose information about the sealed case to non-criminal justice agencies. This includes employment applications, which was a major factor pushing the bill into law.

Sealing an Criminal Record in Chester County or Delaware County, PA

Call the attorneys at the Skinner Law Firm if you are interested in sealing or expunging a criminal record in Chester County or Delaware County, PA.

We also help clients seal or expunge a record throughout the surrounding areas of Pennsylvania. Call us to speak directly with an attorney to discuss your case.

With offices in West Chester in Chester County (610-436-1410) and Media in Delaware County (610-565-3320), we are here to assist you in moving past your criminal record.

Who is Eligible to Seal a Record under Pennsylvania Law?

A person who has a conviction for a second degree misdemeanor, third degree misdemeanor or ungraded misdemeanor and who has been free of arrest or prosecution for the past 10 years is eligible.

The 10 year wait period does not start until completion of probation, parole or other supervision. Anyone who has ever been convicted of one of the following offenses is not eligible:

  • Ungraded misdemeanor punishable by more than two years;
  • Four of more misdemeanor offenses;
  • Sexual Intercourse with an Animal;
  • Obstruction of Child Abuse Case;
  • A conviction that requires Meghan’s Law (sex offender) registration;
  • Retaliation Against a Witness;
  • Intimidation of Witnesses;
  • Impersonating a Public Servant; or
  • A second degree misdemeanor for Simple Assault (M2).

What convictions can be sealed in Pennsylvania?

As mentioned above, certain convictions cannot be sealed even if they are second, third or ungraded misdemeanors. The law also clearly disqualifies simple assault convictions unless it was a third or ungraded misdemeanor.

Thus, common offenses that may be sealed under the new law include first offense DUI, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and certain theft, trespass and firearm offenses.

What is the procedure to seal the record?

A person who is eligible files a petition in the Court of Common Pleas in the county where the guilty plea or verdict took place. The District Attorney’s Office has thirty (30) days to consent or object.

If the District Attorney’s Office objects, there will be a hearing before a judge. If the District Attorney’s Office does not object, the Order will be granted and notice of the sealed Order will be submitted to the appropriate agencies.

It is important to note that there are exceptions to the law. For example, legal, medical, teaching or nursing agencies that issue professional occupational licenses may request criminal information from a sealed case.

In addition, if there is an investigation by a county children, youth and family agency or Department of Public Welfare, criminal information may be requested.

It is important to remember that the purpose of the law is not to expunge or erase a criminal record. The purpose of the law is to seal a case from public access after successfully showing years of law-abiding behavior.

Additional Resources

Section 9122. Expungement in Pennsylvania – Visit the website of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to read more about Title 18, on expungement. Find the specific proceedings subject to expunction including criminal history record information. Also find a list of offenses with a prohibition on expunction after the defendant was placed on Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD) when the victim was under 18 years of age.

§ 9122.1 Order for limited access – The new law for sealing records in Pennsylvania provides, in part:

(a) General rule.—The following shall apply:

(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, upon petition of a person who has been free of arrest or prosecution following conviction or final release from confinement or supervision, whichever is later, for a period of 10 years, the court of common pleas in the jurisdiction where the conviction occurred may enter an order that criminal history record information maintained by any criminal justice agency pertaining to a conviction for a misdemeanor of the second degree, a misdemeanor of the third degree or an ungraded offense which carries a maximum penalty of no more than two years be disseminated only to a criminal justice agency or a government agency as provided in section 9121(b.1) and (b.2) (relating to general regulations).

(2) Except when requested or required by a criminal justice agency, or by and for the official use of a government agency described in section 9121(b.1) or 9124(a) (relating to use of records by licensing agencies), no individual shall be required nor requested to disclose information about the person’s criminal history records that are the subject of a court order for limited access granted under this section…..

…..(c) Notice to district attorney.—The court shall provide notice of the filing of a petition under subsection (a) to the district attorney within 10 days. Within 30 days of receipt of notice, the district attorney may file objections to the petition. If no objection is timely filed, the court may grant the petition without further hearing if the requirements of this section have been met.

(d) Notice to central repository.—Notice of an order for limited access shall promptly be submitted to the central repository which shall notify all criminal justice agencies which have received criminal history record information related to such conviction that access to such criminal history record has been limited by order of the court.

Expungement of Juvenile Record in Chester County, PA – Visit the website of Chester County, PA, to learn more about the expungement process for a juvenile record in Chester County, PA. Find information on the process to legally erase a juvenile record or seal the record making it permanently unavailable to the public. Find out more about when the Juvenile Probation Department will expunge any information it creates and any information it receives from outside sources. Also find information on when the State and Local Police will expunge arrest records and records of juveniles’ dispositions upon receipt of a certified court order from the petitioner.

What should I do if I am eligible?

If you are eligible under the new law to seal your criminal case, contact an attorney at Skinner Law Firm to discuss your options further. With offices in West Chester in Chester County (610-436-1410) and Media in Delaware County (610-565-3320), our attorneys are here to assist you in moving past your criminal record.

Call us to seal or expunge your criminal record in West Chester for Chester County or in Media for Delaware County, PA.

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Possible Changes to Pennsylvania’s Expungement Statute

Old Courthouse

On January 15, 2015, Pennsylvania Senate bill SB 166 was introduced, which would allow persons with certain misdemeanor convictions to expunge their records. This is an updated version of a similar bill that was proposed in 2013, but never voted upon. Currently, the law allows for expungement of convictions only in the following limited circumstances:

  • A person who was convicted of a summary offense (non-traffic citation) may seek an expungement if he or she has been free of arrest or prosecution for five years after the conviction. Common summary offenses include disorderly conduct, trespassing, criminal mischief, retail theft, harassment, and public intoxication.
  • An adult (over 18 years old) who was convicted of 18 Pa.C.S. 6308 (underage drinking) may seek an expungement if he or she reaches 21 years old and has satisfied all penalties from the case, including license suspension.
  • A person may seek an expungement of his or her criminal record when he or she reaches 70 years old and has been free of arrest for at least 10 years since release from incarceration, parole or probation.
  • An individual has been dead for 3 years.

As indicated above, expungements of convictions are very limited. Misdemeanors will always be part of your criminal history record and are accessible by employers, family members, schools and even the public. It does not matter how much time has passed, or whether you have been successfully rehabilitated.  If you were convicted of any misdemeanor, you cannot currently seek an expungement unless you are old or dead. SB 166 seeks to change this unfairness of the current law.

Under SB 166, persons with ungraded misdemeanor, third degree misdemeanor and/or second degree misdemeanor convictions will be allowed to expungement their record once a certain amount of time has passed. For ungraded and third degree misdemeanors, a person must wait 7 years. For second degree misdemeanors that occurred when a person was under the age of 25, he or she must wait 10 years. The bill would not allow expungement of any of the following misdemeanors:

  • An offense punishable by imprisonment of two years or more
  • Four or more offenses punishable by imprisonment of one year or more
  • Firearm offenses
  • Simple assault graded as a second degree misdemeanor
  • Animal abuses until section 3129
  • An offense of impersonating a public officer
  • An offense of intimidating or retaliating against a witness
  • An offense of cruelty to animals
  • Meghan’s law registration offenses

At this point, the status of the bill is unclear. However, there is much to be addressed. Unfortunately, the bill does not include first degree misdemeanor convictions, even for first time offenders. In addition, the bill distinguishes between those under 25 years old and those over 25 years old who have second degree misdemeanors. This type of distinction is fundamentally unfair to people who otherwise become successful members of society many years down the line. Hopefully, the current hiatus status of the bill means there will be changes to the final version.

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