Will Sunbury, PA Welcome Convicted Felons or Close the Community's Doors to Them? Part II

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Jan 10, 2023 | 0 Comments

We recently reported on a proposed ordinance in the town of Sunbury, PA that would prohibit people convicted of violent felonies from renting a house or apartment. In Part II of this report, we'll take a more in-depth look at the reasoning behind this proposal's ramifications.

Where Things Stand In Sunbury

A 2012 ordinance made it illegal for convicted drug dealers to rent property within the city limits for seven years after their release from prison. That regulation was rarely enforced, however. Then, in October 2022, city officials announced that not only would Sunbury be more consistent in enforcing the 2012 measure, it would be expanding its reach to other types of crimes besides drug offenses.

Originally scheduled to be voted on during city council meetings, first on November 14th and then again in the November 28th meeting, the ordinance is now stuck in limbo. Councilman John Barnhardt says that more research and a better-articulated plan are necessary before the new changes can be rolled out.

The proposed ordinance initially indicated that landlords would be prohibited from renting apartments or houses to anyone with a felony conviction for a violent crime. Failure to comply, if the ordinance had passed, would have resulted in non-renewal of their housing permit.

Now, city officials are hammering out a new system to evaluate potential renters who have a criminal record. It's a points-based approach meant to more accurately assess tenants and landlords alike. The points system will allow the city to levy points based on the person's criminal record, where the crime occurred, whether fatalities ensued, whether criminal behavior can be traced back to the property or its owner, and so on.

Arguments For and Against the Ordinance

Sunbury is understandably concerned about the impacts of violent crime, including homicide, aggravated assault, manslaughter, kidnapping, hazing, and assault of law enforcement personnel. As in all American municipalities, keeping the community safe is a top priority. Since over half (60%) of all Sunbury residential properties are rentals, cracking down on tenants with a checkered past makes a lot of sense, on the surface.

However, the ramifications of such a restrictive measure aren't as clear-cut. Critics of the ordinance argue that just because someone has been convicted of a violent crime doesn't mean they'll continue a life of criminal behavior. Once a person has done their time behind bars and fulfilled all their other obligations with regard to repaying society, they should not face additional discrimination.

For example, imagine a person who killed a pedestrian while driving drunk. After being convicted of manslaughter, serving their sentence, going through drug rehab, and abiding by their parole-related restrictions, this person may not represent any danger to the community. Nevertheless, they won't be allowed to rejoin their family or to start fresh and build a new one—at least not in Sunbury.

On the other hand, some local leaders and residents argue that the precaution is necessary given the intrinsically violent nature of these crimes. Keeping criminals outside the city limits represents a relatively easy, overarching approach to nipping crime in the bud, they say.

How A Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

The potential punishment faced by someone who's committed a violent felony is already steep: incarceration, fines, restitution, parole, and the stigma that follows them throughout the rest of their life. It can be extremely difficult to find employment. Now, the issue of securing housing will make an ex-con's life that much more challenging.

Your mistakes and youthful indiscretions don't have to haunt you forever. Contact the Lento Law Firm to discuss your case with Attorney Joseph D. Lento. Call 888-535-3686 or click here.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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