After you've committed a crime in Pennsylvania, you might assume that your criminal record is visible to every state, county, and municipal government agency. That's not always the case, however. Depending on the type of crime you committed and where you committed it, some agencies may be blocked from accessing your criminal record.
A new law signed by Governor Tom Wolf in early July will address one of these barriers to record sharing, allowing agencies investigating instances of child abuse to communicate more easily.
The Criminal History Record Information Act in Pennsylvania
The child protection bill, also known as Act 42, was sponsored by State Rep. Todd Stephens. Stephens formerly worked as a prosecutor in the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office handling child abuse cases and noticed that law enforcement agencies weren't allowed to share some investigative or criminal record history with county youth agencies.
The Criminal History Record Information Act, 18 Pa. C.S.A. §9125 provides rules for collecting, maintaining, disseminating, and receiving criminal history record information throughout Pennsylvania. Individuals with criminal history records have certain rights concerning who has access to the records and how they may be used under the Criminal History Record Information Act. For example, it requires employers to only consider the criminal history that relates directly to the job candidates are applying for. Also, licensing agencies cannot preclude the issuance of a license based solely on criminal history.
The Criminal History Record Information Act also prevented law enforcement agencies from sharing criminal history records with youth services organizations and advocacy groups. Act 42 now enables Children's Advocacy Centers of Pennsylvania, a statewide nonprofit with other groups under its umbrella, to access certain investigative information that would help an investigation of suspected child abuse.
What the New Child Protection Bill Means for Criminal Defendants
Act 42 will allow more agencies to have access to an individual's criminal history. Although the law is not meant to impede or interfere with criminal prosecutions of persons who have committed child abuse, it will allow a criminal justice agency to share information in a central repository or automated system. It will also allow a county agency or Department of Human Services to carry out investigations and provide records of criminal history to nonprofits and advocacy agencies (non-governmental groups).
Although the criminal history record sharing between law enforcement agencies and nonprofits shouldn't impact criminal prosecutions, it could have an impact on a defendant's life afterward. It may be more difficult to get records sealed or expunged, and it may pose a problem for obtaining certain types of employment. It could also prevent those with a previous criminal history from trying to adopt a child later on in life.
A Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
With changes to record-sharing laws in Pennsylvania, it's vital to have an attorney who understands the updates and what they mean for your case. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has defended countless clients in Pennsylvania courts and will present the strongest possible arguments on your behalf. Contact Lento Law Firm today at 888.535.3686 to schedule a consultation.