A bill that expands the law to provide for expungement of certain misdemeanor convictions in Pennsylvania was recently re-introduced in the State Senate.
On January 15, 2015, State Senator Stewart Greenleaf introduced Senate Bill 166, which would greatly expand the expungement law in Pennsylvania and provide former offenders a deserved second chance.
Pennsylvania Senate Bill 166 on Misdemeanor Expungement
The recently introduced SB 166 provides for the same changes to Pennsylvania’s expungement law as Senate Bill 391. In October of 2013, the PA State Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 391. Following passage in the senate, SB 391 was sent to the PA House for consideration but was never brought up for a vote. Under the proposed changes, the new law would allow certain offenders with misdemeanor convictions to expunge their conviction after a waiting period has been satisfied.
“A low-level misdemeanor in a person’s past can often serve as a continual barrier when seeking work, long after they have completed their sentence,” State Senator Greenleaf stated in his memorandum announcing the introduction of this bill. Greenleaf also said “this legislation would benefit not just former offenders, but Pennsylvania as a whole, by countering high rates of recidivism, relieving an overburdened pardon system, and providing an opportunity for ex-offenders to join our workforce.”
Comparing SB 166 to the Current Law
Pennsylvania’s current law does not allow individuals with misdemeanor or felony convictions to expunge their record, no matter what amount of time has passed, until he or she is over seventy years of age and has not been convicted of any offense for five years or until the person has been dead for three years. SB 166 would allow individuals who have nonviolent second or third degree misdemeanors to petition to have their criminal records expunged if they have not reoffended in seven years for second degree misdemeanors or ten years for third degree misdemeanors.
If Senate Bill 166 is passed and enacted, Pennsylvania would join a growing number of states that have added or improved their expungement laws in recent years to reduce the number of years that a criminal record can prejudice an individual. This national trend evidences the importance of allowing former offenders, especially those with low-level offenses, the chance to move forward without the stigma that comes with a conviction.
On February 3, after receiving a unanimous vote in the Judiciary Committee on January 22, Senate Bill 166 was referred to the senate Appropriations committee for consideration. We will continue to post updates as this extremely beneficial bill is considered by Pennsylvania’s legislature.