As a result of new legislation that will become effective in November of 2016, the McMahon & Winters Law Firm is making every effort to inform everyone with a criminal record how they might benefit from this new law.
“This new legislation is a game-changer,” said Michael Winters, Partner at McMahon & Winters Law Firm in Lancaster, PA. “Although we would like to see a shorter wait period before a person qualifies to have their record sealed in certain cases, this legislation is certainly a step in the right direction.”
Previously, when someone sought to have their criminal history erased from their record, they would seek an expungement of that record. The stated purpose of an expungement is to protect that individual from the difficulties and hardships that may result from having an arrest on their record. Law firms such as the McMahon & Winters Law Firm frequently assist people with the expungement process. However, the availability of expungements are limited and, unless a pardon is granted, convictions for misdemeanor offense cannot be expunged unless the person reaches age 70 and has remained free of arrest for 10 years, or, the person has been dead for three years.
Under the newly enacted legislation, records can now be “sealed,” even if they cannot be expunged. Once sealed, records will not be available to the public, although they will be available for law enforcement purposes. Additionally, individuals will not need to disclose sealed records for employment or other purposes, however they may be used for state licensing purposes.
With certain exceptions, if someone has been convicted of a misdemeanor of the second or third degree or, an ungraded misdemeanor punishable by no more than two years in prison, that person may be entitled to have their record sealed for that target offense. The person must first remain free of arrest or conviction following release from confinement or supervision for the offense at issue (whichever is later), for a period of 10 years. If that person has ever been convicted of other enumerated offenses such as a misdemeanor of the first degree, a felony, four or more misdemeanors of the second or third degree, simple assault graded as a misdemeanor of the second degree, and some other specified charges, they will not be able to have their record sealed for the target offense.
The difficulties and hardships of having a criminal record are many. “Many people are still paying the price for having a criminal record for a relatively minor offense committed years ago,” Winters said. “A criminal record, even if for a minor offense, can affect one’s ability to get a job or promotion, a loan, an apartment, or, to qualify for educational loans or opportunities. Hopefully, the McMahon & Winters Law Firm will be able to assist people with having their records expunged or sealed so that they no longer have that impediment to improving their lives.”
The new law becomes effective on November 14, 2016.