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New Law Allows for Expungement of Misdemeanor Criminal Records

October 25, 2016

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Next month, a new law which allows for expungement of certain criminal records will go into effect in Pennsylvania. Aimed at decreasing recidivism, the law offers an opportunity for many individuals convicted of low-level misdemeanors to start over with a clean slate.


In recent decades, as more and more individuals were charged and incarcerated, it became clear that something was amiss in state policy regarding criminal records. Far too many individuals who would otherwise have been able to stay out of prison after being released were unable to obtain employment or housing, and eventually found their way back to a life of crime. In an effort to combat this trend, lawmakers drafted Senate Bill 166, which addresses Pennsylvania’s harsh expungement law.

Under the new law, it will be much more simple for an individual to have his or her record expunged as long as certain criteria are satisfied, including that he or she:

  • Committed a misdemeanor of the second or third degree or an offense carrying a maximum penalty of no more than two years;
  • Has not been arrested or prosecuted for at least ten years; and
  • Properly completed and submitted a petition to the appropriate court, which includes payment of a $132 fine.

Once a court receives a petition, it must provide notice of the filing to the district attorney within ten days of receipt. The district attorney then has 30 days to file an objection to the petition. If no objection is filed and the other requirements are satisfied, a court can order that the petitioner’s criminal history record be sealed and barred from release to any person or institution besides criminal justice or state licensing agencies without any further hearings.


There are, however, a few exceptions to this general rule. According to the new law, an order for expungement will not be granted to any person who has been convicted of:

  • An offense punishable by imprisonment for more than two years;
  • Four or more offenses punishable by confinement for one or more years;
  • Simple assault, unless the offense was graded as a third degree misdemeanor;
  • An offense related to sexual intercourse with an animal;
  • An offense related to impersonating a public servant;
  • Intimidating witnesses or victims;
  • Retaliating against witnesses, victims, or another party;
  • An offense involving intimidation, retaliation or obstruction in a child abuse case; or
  • An offense requiring registration as a sexual offender.

As a result of the passage of this law, individuals convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana, DUI or certain types of retail theft will be able to start their lives without fear of prejudice because of a criminal record.

Contact an Experienced Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Having a criminal record makes it extremely difficult to find gainful employment, housing or take advantage of educational opportunities. So if you or a loved one committed a misdemeanor in the past, please contact van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim in Philadelphia by calling (215) 486-0123 and a member of our dedicated legal team will help you schedule a free consultation with a dedicated criminal defense attorney who can help explain your legal options.



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