Many of us have contacted our local, state, or national elected officials to tell them what we think. You may even have contacted local public servants and your fellow voters to petition for your point of view on a political appointment, a zoning matter, or even when the city should pick up your trash. We think nothing of exercising our First Amendment right to “petition the government for redress of grievances.” But what happens when petitioning crosses a line into threatening or attempting to exercise undue influence over a decision? In Pennsylvania, this is a criminal offense known as threatening or attempting to exercise undue influence over official or political matters. It can range from a second-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. If you have a conviction for this crime on your record, you know it can affect you for years to come.
Fortunately, you have options to clean up a misdemeanor record in Pennsylvania. If you qualify, you may have the state automatically seal your record through new legislation known as “Clean Slate,” or you may be eligible to petition the court to limit public access to your records through part of this legislation known as Act 5.
Pennsylvania Statute for “Threats and Other Improper Influence”
You can face charges in Pennsylvania for “threats and other improper influence in official and political matters” if you:
- Threaten to harm someone to influence their “decision, opinion, recommendation, vote, or other exercise of discretion as a public servant, party official, or voter,”
- Threaten to harm a public servant to influence their “decision, opinion, recommendation, vote, or other exercise of discretion in a judicial or administrative proceeding, or
- Threaten to harm a public servant or party official to “influence [them] to violate [their] known legal duty.”
It isn't a defense to claim that the person you sought to influence wasn't qualified or able to act in the “desired way” because of a lack of jurisdiction, they hadn't yet assumed office or any other reason. 18 Pa. Stat. § 4702.
Penalties for Threats and Other Improper Influence
The grading of your offense for threatening or attempting to undue influence official or political matters will depend on who you tried to influence and any threats you made. Still, the crime can range from a second-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.
- Threats and Other Improper Influence Misdemeanor Penalties Typically, “threats or other improper influence in official or political matters” is a second-degree misdemeanor unless you threatened to commit a crime or tried to influence a judicial or administrative proceeding. Under Pennsylvania law, a second-degree misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of $500 to $5,000 and up to two years in prison.
- Felony Penalties for Threats and Other Improper Influence If you threatened to commit a crime or tried to influence a judicial or administrative proceeding, “threats or other improper influence in official or political matters” becomes a third-degree felony. 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 under Pennsylvania law.
Sealing Criminal Records Through Clean Slate
One of the easiest ways to clean up your record now happens automatically. In 2019, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a new law to make sealing a criminal record easier. This new Clean Slate law will automatically seal the criminal records of those who qualify after five to ten years. You may qualify for Clean Slate's automatic record sealing if:
- Your conviction was for a summary offense or a second or third-degree misdemeanor,
- The prosecution dropped the charges, or the court found you not guilty, so you don't have a conviction on your record,
- Your conviction was for a misdemeanor or ungraded offense punishable by two years or less in prison.
You likely qualify for automatic sealing under the Clean Slate legislation if you have a second-degree misdemeanor conviction for threatening or attempting to exercise undue influence over official or political matters.
Sealing Your Record with an Act 5 Petition
If you can't seal your misdemeanor conviction for threatening or attempting to exercise undue influence over official or political matters because you don't meet all the qualifications, you may still be able to petition the court to limit public access to your records through Act 5. While Act 5 isn't an automatic process, you must petition the court once you qualify, and it applies to a broader range of convictions. You may qualify to use Act 5 sealing if:
- It's been at least ten years since you paid all your fines and completed your sentence,
- Your misdemeanor conviction is punishable by only five years or less in prison, and
- You don't have any more convictions for a crime punishable by a year or more of incarceration.
Can I Seal a Felony Conviction in Pennsylvania?
If you have a felony conviction for “threats and other improper influence in official or political matters” in Pennsylvania, you won't qualify to seal your record through Clean Slate or Act 5. Pennsylvania law doesn't allow the sealing of felonies and only allows people to expunge their felony convictions under limited circumstances. However, you may qualify to expunge a felony record if:
- You receive a pardon from Pennsylvania's governor, or
- You are at least 70, and it's been at least ten years since your criminal case.
You may also be able to expunge the record of someone deceased if it's been at least three years since they died. However, if you have a felony conviction and are interested in exploring your options, you should see an experienced Pennsylvania expungement lawyer.
You Need a Skilled Pennsylvania Sealing and Expungement Attorney
If you have a misdemeanor or felony conviction for threatening or attempting to exercise undue influence over official or political matters, and you're interested in sealing or expungement, this isn't a process you should attempt on your own. Figuring out the best options for your legal circumstances can be challenging, and you need the help of an experienced sealing and expungement lawyer. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm have been helping people like you expunge and seal their Pennsylvania records for years. They can help you too. Give the Lento Law Firm a call today at 888.535.3686 to schedule your consultation, or contact them online.