Pennsylvania's new record sealing law allows offenders with misdemeanor records to clear their names within the state. Criminal records can ruin a person's chances at a future career or educational goals. Pennsylvania previously only allowed a person to expunge their records, which has a number of restrictions, in addition to making misdemeanor expungements out of the question. Pennsylvania, fortunately, has now allowed misdemeanor convictions and associated records to be sealed under the new "limited access" laws. These laws, true to their name, limit the access to a person's records when a background check is conducted.
Sealing Records in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania's Act 5 of 2016 allows a step further in clearing one's name. This process allows a person who has been convicted or arrested on misdemeanor charges to seal away their records from access. Much like the expungement process, however, before a person may file to have their records sealed, they must meet the requirements for record sealing eligibility. In order for a person to seal their record in Pennsylvania, the must meet the following requirements:
- The record they wish to seal is for a 2nd or 3rd-degree misdemeanor, or an ungraded misdemeanor
- They have remained free of any arrest, conviction or any other criminal proceedings for a period of at least 10 years time
- They have never been convicted of certain crimes, such as felonies or serious misdemeanor offenses
- They have had fewer than four misdemeanor convictions
- Their sentencing for any and all convictions has been fulfilled, including any fines, and court mandated programs
- All court fees associated with their conviction have been paid
These laws work by conducting a filing, which restricts access to a person's files during background checks, except in certain situations. The Court of Common Pleas for the county in which the criminal incident took place will hold authority over the record sealing process. A person wishing to seal their records must petition this same court in order for the motion to take place.
Petitioning the court for a sealing of one's records can be a difficult and arduous process, especially for a person who is simply trying to get their life back on track. Because of the relative newness of this law, there is likely to be a higher case volume than usual at the court. In addition to this, court employees dealing with this large volume may be unable to provide adequate direction and guidance for defendants who are attempting to conduct this filing themselves. Due to the newness of the laws, as well as the already complicated filing process, these motions may best be handled by an attorney.