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New law gives hope to those saddled with old convictions

Your drunk driving arrest seems like another lifetime ago, but the consequences continue to haunt you. Maybe you had to switch your college major or drop out altogether because of the institution's code of conduct. Maybe the conviction precluded you from continuing on the employment track you had planned. You may have missed many opportunities in the past decade because of that one mistake.

Fortunately, Pennsylvania has passed a new law providing hope for you and thousands of others who suffer similar consequences from convictions for minor crimes like DUI and shoplifting. Under certain circumstances, you can petition to have your conviction hidden from your public record.

How the program works

Some estimate that about one third of adults in Pennsylvania have a criminal record of some kind. The new program offers a fresh start to many seeking opportunities that a criminal conviction may prevent them from obtaining. Having the records sealed means that anyone doing a routine background check on you — for example, a potential employer, landlord or educational administration — will not see the crime on your record on online databases. To be eligible for this program, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You committed a second- or third-degree misdemeanor.
  • Your sentence was less than two years in prison.
  • You completed your sentence at least 10 years ago.
  • You have not been arrested in those 10 years.

The application fee is $132, and a judge will review your case and make a determination.

Without this program, you may have had limited options for clearing your record. In fact, expungement has only been available for those with summary convictions or who are over the age of 70. You may have hopes of making a change in your life long before you reach the age of 70.

A brighter future ahead

The new law is not an expungement, nor is it a pardon. The conviction remains on your record for law enforcement to see. However, this will only make a difference if you have future run-ins with the law. Lawmakers realize that a 10-year-old misdemeanor should not affect every aspect of your life.

You may not have realized how seriously that one mistake would impact your future. As years passed and you encountered roadblocks to your success, you may have begun to lose hope of ever overcoming that single moment when you made a bad choice. Now that this opportunity is waiting, you may want to make sure you complete the process correctly to avoid any delays. A criminal defense attorney is an excellent resource for solid advice in these matters.

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