In the age of the Sandwich Generation, many of us are overburdened caring for both children and aging parents, or an aging spouse or another family member. Or you may be a professional caretaker caring for disabled or aging adults who can't care for themselves. As a result, accusations of abuse can devastate your career and your family, but everyone makes mistakes. If you have a conviction for abuse of a care-dependent person, it can harm your reputation in the community and your career. Fortunately, Pennsylvania law offers some options for those convicted of a crime who want to get their lives back on track. You may sometimes qualify to seal your arrest or court records from public view under Pennsylvania law.
Pennsylvania Law Prohibiting Abuse of a Care-dependent Person
Pennsylvania law defines abuse of a care-dependent person as a caretaker who:
- Intending to harass, annoy, or alarm a care-dependent person,
- Strikes, shoves, kicks, or otherwise subjects a care-dependent person to physical contact or attempts to or threatens to do so.
- Engages in a court of conduct or repeated acts that don't serve a legitimate purpose.
- Uses “lewd, lascivious, threatening or obscene words, language, drawings or caricatures” with a care-dependent person.
- Communicates with a care-dependent person at extremely inconvenient hours.
- Stalks a care-dependent person.
- Uses audio, video, or photos of a care-dependent person to ridicule a care-dependent person via social media, text, video, or any other form of electronic service or wireless communication.
18 Pa. Stat. § 2713.1 (2021).
Under Pennsylvania law, a “care-dependent person” is “any adult who, due to physical or cognitive disability or impairment, requires assistance to meet his needs for food, shelter, clothing, personal care or health care.”
Penalties for Abusing a Care-Dependent Person
Penalties for abusing a care-dependent person will vary in Pennsylvania depending on the nature and seriousness of the crime.
- Third-Degree Misdemeanor Abuse of a care-dependent person is a third-degree misdemeanor under Pennsylvania law if a caretaker audio, video, or photos of a care-dependent person to ridicule a care-dependent person via social media, text, video, or any other form of electronic service or wireless communication. In Pennsylvania, a conviction of a third-degree misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of $250 to $5,000 and up to 90 days in prison.
- First-Degree Misdemeanor Abuse of a care-dependent person is a first-degree misdemeanor if a caretaker: (i) strikes, shoves, kicks or otherwise subjects or attempts to subject a care-dependent person to or threatens a care-dependent person with physical contact;(ii) engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts that serve no legitimate purpose;(iii) communicates to a care-dependent person any lewd, lascivious, threatening or obscene words, language, drawings or caricatures; or(iv) communicates repeatedly with the care-dependent person at extremely inconvenient hours. Penalties for a conviction of first-degree misdemeanor abuse of a care-dependent person include a fine of $1,500 to $10,000 and up to five years in prison.
- Third-Degree Felony Abuse of a care-dependent person is a third-degree felony if a caretaker engages in stalking under Pennsylvania Code § 2709.1. Under Pennsylvania law, a conviction for a third-degree felony is punishable by a fine of $2,500 to $15,000 and up to seven years in prison.
Sealing Misdemeanor Abuse of a Care-Dependent Person Records
If you only have a misdemeanor conviction for abuse of a care-dependent person, you may have one or two legislative options to seal your records. Sealing can limit public access to your court or arrest records. First, Pennsylvania's Clean Slate statute allows the courts to seal your records under certain conditions automatically. If you don't qualify for automatic sealing, you may also have the option to petition the court for sealing under Pennsylvania's Act 5, which is a broader statute.
Sealing Abuse of a Care-Dependent Person Records Through Clean Slate
The 2019 Pennsylvania Clean Slate legislation is a ground-breaking
option to give those with criminal records a second chance. If you qualify, the court will automatically seal your records ten years after you complete your sentence and pay your fines. You may qualify under Clean Slate if:
- You only have a conviction for a summary conviction, a charge graded below a misdemeanor,
- The court dismissed the charges for abuse of a care-dependent person or found you not guilty,
- You have a misdemeanor conviction for a second or third-degree misdemeanor for abuse of a care-dependent person,
- You have a misdemeanor conviction, but it was punishable by two years or less in prison.
So, you may be able to have your record for abuse of a care-dependent person sealed under Clean Slate if you only have a conviction for a third-degree misdemeanor or you weren't convicted of the charge against you.
Sealing Your Abuse of a Care-Dependent Person Record with an Act 5 Petition
Another, more expansive option for sealing a criminal record is
Pennsylvania's Act 5. Act 5 is broader than Clean Slate, applying to more
misdemeanor convictions. But it doesn't happen automatically; you must petition the court to seal your records. You may qualify for Act 5 sealing if:
- It's been ten years since you completed your sentence and paid your fine,
- You don't have any additional arrests or prosecutions for crimes that can be punished by a year in jail or more, and
- Don't have any other misdemeanor or ungraded offenses punishable by five years or less in prison.
So, under Act 5, you can petition the court to seal your record for abuse of a care-dependent person if your conviction is for a third or first-degree misdemeanor.
Sealing a Felony Charge for Abuse of a Care-Dependent Person in Pennsylvania
If you have a third-degree felony conviction for abuse of a care-dependent person for stalking a care-dependent person under Pennsylvania Code § 2709.1, you will not be eligible to seal your record automatically under Clean Slate or by petition under Act 5. If you apply for and receive a pardon from the Governor of Pennsylvania, you may be able to expunge your record. However, if you have a felony conviction for abuse of a care-dependent person, you need to consult an experienced Pennsylvania expungement and sealing attorney.
Hire an Experienced Pennsylvania Sealing Attorney
If you're trying to figure out your options for cleaning up your criminal record in Pennsylvania, you need a skilled attorney well-versed in handling Pennsylvania expungement and sealing cases. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the skilled team at the Lento Law Firm can help. Give them a call at 888.535.3686 to schedule a consultation, or contact them online today.