Governor Wolf Reminds Pennsylvanians of New Criminal Record Sealing Law

November 28, 2016

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today reminded Pennsylvanians that Act 5 of 2016 is now in effect which expands criminal record sealing for many low-level misdemeanors in Pennsylvania to reduce recidivism, relieve the pardon system, and provide ex-offenders greater opportunity to join the workforce. The bill was enacted because of significant effort by Sen. Stewart J. Greenleaf and Rep. Jordan Harris.

“The United States is the world leader in incarceration and a criminal record often carries a lifetime of consequences that often lead to poverty or re-incarceration,” Governor Wolf said. “This law is a commonsense, positive and unprecedented step to help Pennsylvanians with minor or dated criminal records have a fighting chance at opportunities for gainful employment.

“Too many first-time and low-level offenders are serving their time and unable to improve their lives after leaving the system because they have a criminal record. And, they are too likely then to return to the system. We still have more to do to break this cycle; it is robbing too many of their lives and it is costing taxpayers far too much.”

Act 5 amended Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) to allow individuals who have served their punishment and remained free of arrest, prosecution, or conviction for ten years, for nonviolent misdemeanors, to petition the court for their record to be sealed from public view, but still available to law enforcement and state licensing agencies.

Pennsylvanians may be eligible if all the following apply to them:

  • Convicted of a misdemeanor of the 2nd or 3rd degree;
  • Free of arrest and conviction for a period of 10 years;
  • Never convicted of certain crimes (felonies, 1st degree misdemeanors or 2nd degree simple assault);
  • Have fewer than four misdemeanor convictions; and
  • All fine and costs associated with the case have been paid.

Act 5 does not provide orders of limited access for any felony or first degree misdemeanor.  Other exceptions are made for certain misdemeanors, such as sex offenses.

A petition must be filed with the Court of Common Pleas in the county where the charge originated. Petitions may be acquired through the PA Courts website.

A criminal record often carries a lifetime of consequences, and even a minor criminal record can be a serious impediment to employment, housing, education and training, public assistance, financial empowerment, and more.

More than half of U.S. states allow some misdemeanor and even felony convictions to be expunged or sealed.

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