A criminal record can be a stumbling block in your life for years. If you have a conviction for “unlawful contact with a minor” in Pennsylvania, you may already know this. That record can keep you from educational and career opportunities, prevent you from working in licensed professions or volunteering in your community, or even keep you from renting an apartment or buying a house. As a result, it may be time for you to investigate whether you can clean up your criminal record. Under Pennsylvania law, you may have some options.
While the most effective way to clean a criminal record is expungement, many people won't qualify for expungement. In fact, you cannot typically expunge a conviction for unlawful contact with a minor except in limited circumstances. Other offenses may be eligible for sealing under Pennsylvania's Clean Slate or Act 5 legislation.
Charges for Unlawful Contact With a Minor in Pennsylvania
You can face charges for unlawful contact with a minor for a broad range of actions, including lewdness, prostitution, sending obscene or sexual materials, sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, and other sexual offenses. You can face a charge for unlawful contact with a minor in addition to other criminal charges.
The statute states:
(a) Offense defined.--A person commits an offense if he is intentionally in contact with a minor, or a law enforcement officer acting in the performance of his duties who has assumed the identity of a minor, for the purpose of engaging in an activity prohibited under any of the following, and either the person initiating the contact or the person being contacted is within this Commonwealth:
(1) Any of the [sexual] offenses enumerated in Chapter 31 […]
(2) Open lewdness […].
(3) Prostitution […].
(4) Obscene and other sexual materials and performances […].
(5) Sexual abuse of children […]
(6) Sexual exploitation of children […].
18 Pa. Stat. § 6318(a) (2006).
Penalties for Unlawful Contact With a Minor in Pennsylvania
A charge for unlawful contact with a minor is most often a felony charge. In some cases, such as a charge for open lewdness, the underlying offense may be a third-degree misdemeanor. Still, the unlawful contact with a minor charge will be equivalent to the underlying charge or a third-degree felony, whichever is higher. The statute states:
(b) Grading.--A violation of subsection (a) is:
(1) an offense of the same grade and degree as the most serious underlying offense in subsection (a) for which the defendant contacted the minor; or
(2) a felony of the third degree;
whichever is greater.
In Pennsylvania, a conviction for an underlying charge that is a third-degree misdemeanor is punishable by $250 to $5,000 in fines and up to 90 days in jail. A conviction for a second-degree misdemeanor is punishable by $500 to $5,000 in fines and up to two years in prison. At the same time, a conviction for a first-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and up to five years in prison.
However, many underlying crimes involved in unlawful contact with a minor are felony offenses. In Pennsylvania, a third-degree felony conviction is punishable by $2,500 to $15,000 in fines and up to seven years in prison. A conviction for a second-degree felony is punishable by a fine of $5,000 to $25,000 and up to ten years in prison. In contrast, a first-degree felony conviction is punishable by ten to 20 years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine.
Sealing Your Record for Unlawful Contact With a Minor Under Clean Slate
Until recently, many people eligible to seal their criminal records failed to do so. Many didn't seal them because they didn't know they could, but many failed to seal their records because the process was too challenging. As a result, in 2019, the state legislature took action to make sealing criminal records accessible to more people. In some cases, the state will automatically seal your record after five to ten years if you meet the legislative qualifications. You may qualify for Clean Slate's automatic sealing if:
- You have only a summary conviction,
- You have a conviction for a third-degree or second-degree misdemeanor,
- You have an ungraded conviction punishable by no more than two years in prison, or
- You don't have a conviction because of a not-guilty verdict or dismissal of the charges.
You'll need to wait ten years for automatic sealing for a misdemeanor conviction but only five years with a summary conviction.
Sealing Your Unlawful Contact With a Minor Conviction with an Act 5 Petition
Even if you don't qualify for automatic sealing under Clean Slate, you might be eligible to seal your record through Act 5. Act 5 sealing isn't automatic; you must petition the court. However, Act 5 allows you to seal a wider range of convictions. You may qualify for Act 5 sealing if:
- It's been ten years since you completed your sentence,
- You don't have any more convictions or arrests punishable by a year or more in prison, or
- You have an ungraded or misdemeanor conviction punishable by no more than five years in prison.
Crimes Ineligible for Sealing
However, some misdemeanor offenses aren't eligible for expungement or sealing, even after a ten-year waiting period. Crimes that may be ineligible for sealing include:
- Felony convictions,
- Four or more misdemeanor convictions,
- Sexual intercourse with an animal,
- Obstruction of a child abuse case,
- Ungraded misdemeanors punishable by more than five years,
- Intimidating or retaliating against a witness,
- Impersonating a public servant,
- Second-degree misdemeanor convictions for simple assault, and
- Some convictions requiring sex offender registration.
Unlawful contact with a minor is a “tier 2” sexual offense that may require registration as a sex offender. In some cases, you may be unable to seal your record for unlawful contact with a minor. In others, you may be eligible to petition the court to seal your record under Act 5. That's why you must consult attorney Joseph D. Lento and the skilled Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm. They can evaluate your case and tell you your options and the next steps for cleaning up your criminal record.
You Need the Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm
If you have a conviction for unlawful contact with a minor and you want to explore your options for cleaning up your record, it's time to consult an experienced professional. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the skilled Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm have been helping Pennsylvanians seal their records for years. Find out how they can help you. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation, or contact them online today.