On February 16, Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf signed a bill into law that would allow certain non-violent criminal records to be sealed after 10 years for individuals who have performed their sentences and not been re-arrested. Trespassing, vandalism and shoplifting, for example, would be some of the non-violent offenses that would be sealed under this new law.
The bill was intended in part to help people with criminal records to rejoin the workforce. Often, even a minor criminal record can serve as a serious barrier to employment or housing opportunities, as well as educational and training opportunities or public assistance. Blocked from these opportunities or other needed resources, many individuals end up re-offending. This law would presumably also help prevent such recidivism.
This law would allow minor criminal records that are more than 10 years old to be sealed, but not expunged. This means that your record wouldn’t totally go away — it would still remain visible to law enforcement and state licensing agencies. But the record would no longer be visible to employers, potential landlords, or other entities that, with knowledge of the criminal history, might have otherwise denied an opportunity to work, go to school, or sign a lease.
If you have an old non-violent criminal record in Pennsylvania that you would like to have sealed, make an appointment with a criminal defense attorney to discuss if this would be an option for you. The new bill may allow you a better chance to start rebuilding your life free of the burden of a past transgression.