If you have a conviction on your record in Pennsylvania for “retaliation against a victim, witness, or party,” you probably already know that your record can carry consequences far beyond a prison sentence and fines. A criminal record can limit your career choices, whether you can obtain a professional license, and even whether you can rent an apartment. Luckily, Pennsylvania is a state that believes in second chances through expungement or record sealing.
While expungement is usually the most thorough option to destroy an arrest or conviction, not many people with a felony or misdemeanor convictions qualify to expunge their records in Pennsylvania. But you still may qualify to automatically seal your records through Clean Slate or petition the court to limit public access to them through Act 5.
Pennsylvania Statute Prohibiting Retaliation Against a Victim, Witness, or Party
It can be an intimidating process when people come forward as witnesses in a legal matter or if the court subpoenas them. If victims or witnesses in a civil action face retaliation from others involved, it could become difficult to convince others to testify in future cases. Our legislature offers them protection to protect the integrity of our legal system, victims, witnesses, and parties. You can face criminal charges for retaliation against a victim, witness, or party if you harm someone else by:
any unlawful act or engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts which threaten another in retaliation for anything lawfully done in the capacity of witness, victim or a party in a civil matter.
18 Pa. Stat. § 4953 (1980).
Penalties for Retaliation Against a Victim, Witness, or Party
Charges for retaliation against a victim, witness, or party can range from a second-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, depending on the type of threat engaged. However, if you receive a felony charge for retaliation against a victim, witness, or party, you will undoubtedly face additional felony charges for the use or threat of violence or force against them. Additional charges can range up to a first-degree felony, a serious charge in Pennsylvania.
- Misdemeanor Penalties for Retaliation Against a Victim, Witness, or Party Typically, retaliation against a victim, witness, or party is a second-degree misdemeanor charge unless you violate another Pennsylvania law relating to threats or intimidation. A second-degree misdemeanor conviction in Pennsylvania is punishable by a fine of $500 to $5,000 and up to two years in prison.
- Felony Penalties for Retaliation Against a Victim, Witness, or Party Retaliation against a victim, witness, or party becomes a third-degree felony in Pennsylvania if you retaliate using any of the means listed in 18 Pa. Stat. §§ 4952(1-5) related to intimidation of witnesses or victims. You could also face additional charges under section 4952 ranging from third to first-degree felonies. Section 4952 prohibits:
- Using “force, violence, or deception” or threats to use them,
- Offering a benefit to the witness or victim,
- Doing any of these “in furtherance of a conspiracy to intimidate a witness or victim,”
- Accepting, agreeing, or soliciting someone else to accept a benefit to intimidate a witness or victim,
- Having any prior convictions for violating this law under a federal statute that would also be a violation of this state law.
Intimidation of a victim or witness under 4952 can become a third-degree felony if the police charge someone with a third-degree felony in the related intimidation case. In Pennsylvania, a third-degree felony conviction can result in a fine of $2,500 to $15,000 and up to seven years in prison.
In Pennsylvania, intimidation of a victim or witness under 4952 can become a second-degree felony if the police charge someone with a second-degree felony related to the intimidation case. A second-degree felony conviction is punishable by a fine of $5,000 to $35,000 and up to ten years in prison.
Intimidation of a victim or witness can become a first-degree felony under 4952 if the police charge someone with a first-degree felony or first or second-degree murder in the related intimidation case. Under Pennsylvania law, a first-degree felony conviction can result in a fine of up to $25,000 and ten to 20 years in prison.
Sealing Your Record for Retaliation Against a Victim, Witness, or Party Through Clean Slate
A few years ago, the Pennsylvania legislature passed legislation allowing more people to clean up their criminal records. Before passing the new “Clean Slate” legislation, only a fraction of people who qualified to seal their criminal records applied to do so. In some cases, people failed to seal their records because they didn't realize they were eligible. In other cases, people failed to do so because the court process was too cumbersome. But under the new legislation, the state will automatically seal your records after five to ten years if you qualify.
You may be eligible for automatic sealing under Clean Slate if:
- You have a conviction for a second or third-degree misdemeanor or a summary offense,
- You have a conviction for a misdemeanor punishable by no more than two years in prison, or
- The state dismissed your charges, or the court found you not guilty, resulting in no conviction.
If you have a second-degree misdemeanor conviction for retaliation against a victim, witness, or party, you may qualify for automatic sealing of your record under Clean Slate.
Sealing Your Record for Retaliation Against a Victim, Witness, or Party Through an Act 5 Petition
If you don't qualify to seal your record automatically through Clean Slate, you may qualify to petition the court to seal your records using Act 5 instead. While the Act 5 process isn't automatic, you must apply to the court to seal your records; it applies to a wider range of convictions, allowing more people to seal their records.
You may qualify to seal your records under Act 5 if:
- You have an ungraded conviction or a misdemeanor conviction punishable by no more than five years in prison,
- It's been a minimum of ten years since you completed your sentence, including paying any court-imposed restitution, and
- You don't have additional arrests or prosecutions punishable by a year or more of incarceration.
Felony convictions are not eligible for sealing under either Clean Slate or Act 5 in Pennsylvania. However, an experienced Pennsylvania sealing attorney can discuss all your options.
You Need a Skilled Pennsylvania Sealing Attorney
If you have a conviction for “retaliation against a victim, witness, or party” on your record in Pennsylvania and are exploring your options for cleaning up your record, you need the advice of an experienced sealing and expungement attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his skilled team at the Lento Law Firm have helped Pennsylvanians clean up their criminal records for years, and they can help you too. Call the firm at 888.535.3686 to schedule a consultation, or contact them online today.