Expungement comes to Pennsylvania

After many years of struggle and legislative back and forth, a real and meaningful change is coming to Pennsylvania —people with old criminal convictions will finally be able to clear old cases off their records with an Order for Limited Access. This is welcome news for many, but especially for those with misdemeanors who are searching for jobs, housing, or educational opportunities..

For far too long, law abiding people have been denied employment because of old misdemeanor convictions for things like retail theft (shoplifting), DUI, drug possession, or bad checks. This new limited access limited access law, while not expungement in name, is expungement in effect for thousands of Pennsylvanians.

Legal files. Probably. It's a stock photo.
Legal files. Probably. It’s a stock photo.

To qualify, a person must have been arrest free for at least ten years from the date they completed parole/probation; and no more than four cases can be expunged. In February, Governor Wolf signed Act 5 into law. The Act now allows misdemeanors punishable by two years or less and over ten years old to be mostly removed from criminal histories.

A judge will seal your records. But not this judge. He's bead. Probably.
A judge will seal your records.
But not this judge. He’s dead. Probably.

In something of a compromise, old criminal cases are not destroyed (as in expungement), but are now subject to what the Act calls “an Order For Limited Access.” Essentially, the record is not destroyed, but cannot be released to anyone other than a country children and youth agency, the Department of Public Welfare (when conducting investigations into child safety issues), or state licensing agencies.

Notably, however, criminal justice agencies will not have access to the case information, nor will private citizens or investigators—and that means employers.

To discuss whether you can benefit from expungement, call us at 610-891-6500.

About the author: Charles Thomas