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Expungement Bill Passed by Pennsylvania State Senate Committee

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Posted on June 17, 2013
Decorative Scales of Justice in the CourtroomThe Pennsylvania Senate Appropriations Committee passed expungement Senate Bill 391 on June 17, 2013. SB 391, sponsored by Tim Solobay, the Senator of Pennsylvania, amended Pennsylvania’s preexisting expungement law so that qualified offenders with low-level misdemeanor convictions can expunge their conviction after proving that they are rehabilitated and by satisfying the necessary waiting period.

The current law does not allow offenders under 70 years old to expunge their Pennsylvania misdemeanor, regardless of how much time has passed since their misdemeanor conviction. In addition, the offender must wait until he or she is over 70 year of age and cannot have been convicted of an offense in over 5 years. Otherwise, the offender must wait until he or she has been dead for over three years.

While a posthumous misdemeanor expungement may exonerate the former offender, the absolution does not change the quality of life for the departed and does nothing for society. According to RecordGone.com expungement attorney Jenna Thorne, “this bill provides needed relief for many deserving people. It will also benefit the citizens of Pennsylvania, because the new law will help to reduce recidivism rates by allowing more former offenders to secure gainful employment and support themselves.”

Expungement for those with Second or Third Degree Misdemeanors

SB 391 will allow offenders who have second or third degree misdemeanors to apply for an expungement if he or she has not committed another offense within the given timeframe. Second-degree offenders must wait seven years to petition for an expungement, and third-degree offenders must wait ten years before petitioning.

Senator Solobay stresses the necessity for expungement reform stating that “this bill recognizes genuine efforts at rehabilitation; it makes sense for our justice system and it makes sense for taxpayers.” By allowing rehabilitated offenders the opportunity to expunge their misdemeanors from their criminal record, crime rates will reduce and unemployment will lower significantly.

SB 391 will enable former offenders to become self-reliable and contribute to society, rather than being forced into a continuous cycle of dependence as a result of being labeled a criminal, which will benefit both former offenders and citizens of Pennsylvania.

To find out more, read our previous article about senate bill 391.

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How Does Something Become a Law

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bill-indianaPer the United States Constitution, a Bill can become a Law once it has been introduced and approved through various government departments.

A Bill is a proposed law under consideration by a legislature. A Law is a rule enforced through social institutions to govern society’s behavior.

A Bill begins once an individual member of Congress submits to a member of the constituent or a group of constituents. A Bill can also be submitted to a member of Congress by a state legislature. Likewise, the President and the Presidential administration may suggest a Bill’s introduction.

Once a Bill is introduced to Congress, it is assigned to the appropriate Committee within the House and the Senate. A Bill is given scheduled hearings in order for Subcommittees to vote whether or not a Bill should be defeated or passed.

If a Bill is passed to the House and Senate, the Bill is considered and debated upon. This provides the departments discussion time to propose amendments to the Bill.

When a Bill is passed in conference in Congress, the Bill is taken to the Speaker of the House and the President for signature. If a Bill is not signed within a 10 day period, the Bill becomes Law. If a Bill is vetoed, or the Bill is killed, per say, the President’s veto is sent back to Congress with the President’s objections. The Bill is then reworked or dies.

After the President signs a Bill for approval or if the 10 day period has lapsed, the Law is taken to the Archivist of the United States where the Law is assigned a number and published. The Law is also distributed to the United States Statutes of Large and the United States Code where the Law is documented for further distribution and application.

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Changes in Expungement Law in Pennsylvania

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senator-tim-solobay-bill-introduceOn February 12, 2013, Senate Bill 391 was introduced by State Senator Tim Solobay and, if passed, will allow for more leniency in expungement law. The current Pennsylvania law stated that crimes other than summary offenses cannot be expunged until the offender turned 70 years old or has been deceased for more than three years. The new Bill would allow individuals who have misdemeanors of the 2nd and 3rd degree to apply to have their criminal records if they have not reoffended in ten years for 2nd degree misdemeanors, and seven years for 3rd degree misdemeanors.

Senator Tim Solobay is adamant about getting this Bill to pass after similar legislation, Senate Bill 1220, did not make it to a floor vote. Senator Solobay announced that the major intent of this Bill is to offer more opportunities for former offenders to find jobs. He believes that his will prevent those with a criminal history from reoffending. Those who are eligible for expungement can remove the stigma that follows a criminal judgment, which will allow them to continue living their life in a positive manner.

This bill does not apply to offenses punishable by more than one year in prison or pertaining to certain forms of assault, sex offense, cruelty to animals, firearms offenses, and certain other crimes. Expungement will be granted solely at the discretion of the court.

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