A town called Sunbury, located in Pennsylvania's Susquehanna Valley, has a population of around 9,661—for now. However, if some city council members get their wish, the number of Sunbury residents could change. That's because there's a proposal on the ballot that would shut the city's doors to anyone with a violent felony conviction on their record.
The Toll That Crime Can Take on a Convicted Felon's Life
People who make mistakes that lead to any kind of conviction soon learn that their law-breaking behavior comes with serious consequences. Even if they never do time behind bars, or if they serve out their sentence and are released, there's still a difficult road ahead. Parole or probation can place severe restrictions on one's freedom, livelihood, and well-being. Fines and restitution might constitute financial hardship, at least for a while.
These are the legal punishments that follow a conviction, but there are societal repercussions as well. For instance, felons have to report their convictions on employment applications. Their right to vote may be restricted. It's also very likely that their status will stand in the way of renting an apartment or house. Either they'll have to disclose it upfront on the rental application, or the landlord or leasing company will discover it when running a background check on the would-be tenant.
In most places, it's possible, if not easy, to work around this hurdle. Folks with felonies can rent from a friend or family member, or find a property owner willing to take a chance.
And then there's Sunbury, PA, which wants to put the kibosh on felons living anywhere within its limits.
The Status of Convicted Felons In Sunbury—Then and Now
There's already a 2012 ordinance, prohibiting people with felony drug convictions from renting any type of housing on the Sunbury books. According to the ordinance, the restriction is in effect for "seven years after an individual's conviction and the expiration of any applicable appeal period."
In reality, though, this rule has rarely been enforced despite city officials' best intentions.
Now, some Sunbury city council members are calling for the ordinance to be enforced. Moreover, they want to extend the restriction to anyone with a felony conviction for violent crimes, not just drug offenders. Among the crimes that would fall under the amendment's purview are homicide, manslaughter, aggravated assault, kidnapping, and hazing, among others.
The council will vote on an amendment to the 20-year-old ordinance on November 14.
Who Will Suffer These Consequences?
Naturally, the amended ordinance will have a significant effect on anyone who's been convicted of a violent crime and wants to return to Sunbury upon release. But plenty of other people might find themselves in a difficult position because of the regulation's ripple effect.
Families of felons will need to move elsewhere; their children could be taken from the only school, neighborhood, and friend group they've ever known. Landlords will lose out on rental income. Employers who have traditionally been happy to give ex-cons a second chance may soon be understaffed. The restriction could affect Sunbury and its residents more than city officials and other proponents of the measure may realize.
Avoid the Issue By Hiring a Dedicated Defense Attorney
The assistance of a criminal defense attorney is essential for those facing felony charges; for former Sunbury residents who wish to remain there, this is just one more reason among many to find the best possible firm.
The Lento Law Firm is just that. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his expert team will fight for your rights, including your right to rent any apartment or other property you want. Contact the Lento Law Firm to ask questions or schedule a consultation: at 888-535-3686 or click here.
Stay tuned for the second part of this article, in which we'll take a deeper dive into the situation in Sunbury.