If you have a criminal record for a public nuisance charge, you know that it can impact your future. You've probably already experienced your record as a stumbling block to a job, professional license, college application, or mortgage. If you have, it may be time to think about how you can clean up your criminal record. Fortunately, in Pennsylvania, you have some options.
Often the most efficient option for cleaning up a criminal record is expungement, which destroys your records. But in Pennsylvania, not many people are eligible to expunge their records. However, you may be able to seal your records, limiting public access, under Pennsylvania's Clean Slate or Act 5 legislation.
Charges for a Public Nuisance
You can face public nuisance charges if you create conditions that harm community resources or many people. The statute states:
Whoever erects, sets up, establishes, maintains, keeps or continues, or causes to be erected, set up, established, maintained, kept or continued, any public or common nuisance is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree.
18 Pa. Stat. § 6504 (1976). A public nuisance is something that threatens to damage community resources or threatens public health, safety, or welfare. A public nuisance also typically involves many people or harms the community at large, as opposed to a private nuisance which may only harm one person or property owner. For example, discharging your wastewater into a waterway that pollutes a town's water supply could be a public nuisance.
Penalties for a Public Nuisance Charge in Pennsylvania
A public nuisance charge is a second-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania. A conviction for a second-degree misdemeanor is punishable by $500 to $5,000 in fines and up to two years in prison. But the fines and possible jail time may be compounded by the costs of cleaning up or remediating the nuisance. Under Pennsylvania law, “[w]here the nuisance is in existence at the time of the conviction and sentence, the court, in its discretion, may direct either the defendant or the sheriff of the county at the expense of the defendant to abate the same.” Meaning the court can direct clean up or abatement of the nuisance at your expense.
Sealing Your Record for a Public Nuisance Charge Through Clean Slate
Until fairly recently, not many people in Pennsylvania sealed their criminal records yearly. Many people simply didn't know they were eligible, but many others found the process too cumbersome to navigate. To solve this problem, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a statute in 2019 to expand record sealing and make it more accessible. Under this new Clean Slate legislation, the state can automatically seal qualifying convictions after five to ten years. You may qualify for automatic sealing if:
- You have a conviction for a third or second-degree misdemeanor,
- You have a conviction for a summary offense,
- You have a conviction for an ungraded offense or misdemeanor punishable by no more than two years in jail, or
- You don't have a conviction because the court found you not guilty or the state dismissed the charge against you.
If you have a summary conviction that qualifies, the state will automatically seal your record after five years. With a qualifying misdemeanor conviction, the state will automatically seal the charges after ten years.
If you have a second-degree misdemeanor conviction for a public nuisance charge, you are likely ineligible for automatic record sealing with Clean Slate. However, you should consult Joseph D. Lento and the experienced Team at the Lento Law Firm to discuss your options. In some situations, you may be able to expunge your record or petition to seal your records with the court.
Sealing Your Pennsylvania Public Nuisance Conviction With an Act 5 Petition
If you have a second-degree public nuisance conviction, you may still be eligible to seal your records under Pennsylvania's Act 5 legislation, even if you are ineligible for Clean Slate's automatic sealing. Act 5 sealing doesn't happen automatically; you must petition the court. But it does apply to a wider range of misdemeanor convictions. You may qualify for an Act 5 petition if:
- It's been at least ten years since you completed your sentence,
- You don't have more arrests or convictions punishable by more than a year in jail, or
- Your conviction is for an ungraded offense or a misdemeanor punishable by no more than five years in prison. This may include some first-degree misdemeanor convictions.
Convictions Ineligible for Sealing
While many misdemeanors punishable by no more than five years in prison are eligible for Act 5 sealing, some misdemeanors are never eligible, even after the ten-year waiting period, because of the nature of the offense. Some crimes that won't be eligible for sealing except under very limited circumstances include:
- More than three misdemeanor convictions,
- Convictions for sexual intercourse with an animal,
- Convictions for obstruction of a child abuse case,
- Convictions for ungraded misdemeanors punishable by more than five years,
- Convictions for intimidation of a witness,
- Convictions for retaliating against a witness,
- Convictions for impersonating a public servant,
- Second-degree misdemeanor simple assault convictions, and
- Convictions that require sex offender registration.
If you're concerned about whether your record is eligible for sealing under Pennsylvania law, attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can help.
You Need the Skilled Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm
If you have a conviction in Pennsylvania for a public nuisance charge, and you'd like to investigate how you can clean up your criminal record, you should consult the Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his experienced team have been helping Pennsylvanians seal and expunge their criminal 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.