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A New Chance to Receive Criminal Expungements in Pennsylvania

While the issues of redemption and recidivism are always up for debate, many believe that once a criminal serves their time, they should have an opportunity to successfully reintegrate into society. Nowhere is this more evident than in the job-hunting arena, where former criminals often hit stumbling blocks during background checks. Seeking a criminal expungement is the main form of relief for this problem, but in Pennsylvania, criminal defense lawyers know that expungements are granted only for non-convictions — at least, until now?

Expungement Laws in Pennsylvania

An expungement is a civil action filed with the goal of erasing a criminal offense from an individual’s record. Laws surrounding criminal expungement vary from state to state, and in Pennsylvania, they’re especially tough. Convictions of any type, no matter how minor, cannot be expunged, period, with two effectively useless exceptions:

  1. The individual reaches the age of 70; or,
  2. The individual dies. Even then, in a perplexing additional requirement, they have to be dead for at least three years before an expungement can be received.

This has caused problems for thousands of Pennsylvania residents who, because of a trivial offense committed years or even decades ago, struggle to find employment. If someone seeking a job in 2013 stole a pair of shoes twenty years ago — even if they have been clean, productive citizens since then — they are extremely likely to be passed over, as the Society for Human Resource Management reports that over 80% of employers conduct background checks.

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How Bill 391 Will Change Criminal Expungements in Pensylvania

In a stroke of good news for thousands of former petty criminals, an emerging bill might make a world of difference. Senate Bill 391, introduced by Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Tim Solobay, has been passed by the Senate, and is now making its way through the House of Representatives for approval. The bill would allow for a chance at criminal expungement for individuals convicted of 2nd and 3rd Degree misdemeanors, provided that 10 or seven years without an arrest or conviction have passed, respectively. The bill does not offer any expungement privileges to violent offenders, repeat offenders, or to those who have committed sex offenses, firearm offenses, or animal abuse.

Countless studies show that individuals who are unemployed and who feel isolated and disconnected from their communities are more likely to commit crimes. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections cites a 55% rate of recidivism for released criminals looking five years out. It also reports annual spending of over $32,000 per inmate — and between a languishing national economy and the ever-increasing prison population, Bill 391 could provide financial relief for the state as a whole. By introducing former criminals — who have since proven themselves model citizens — to greater employment opportunities, crime rates are expected to drop, while employment rates increase.

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, contact the Bucks County criminal defense lawyers of Young, Marr & Associates today to discuss your case.

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