Monday, October 13, 2008

Pennsylvania House of Representatives passes expungement bill

Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Solobay, D-Washington, has sponsored a Pennsylvania House bill, that could speed up the expungement process in the commonwealth.

He said it could also take some of the load off the parole board.

Solobay said the bill would allow someone who committed a summary offense but has not committed any other crimes in a five-year period to petition the court to have his or her record expunged at the local level rather than having to go through the state.

The reason for the original bill, Solobay said, is that there is "such a backlog of folks waiting to get their records cleared."

He said it takes three to four years to have a record expunged and added many people need to have their records cleared for background checks.

"With many people, we're finding folks in their middle age with something that may have occurred in college and that's holding them back from promotions or from acquiring a job in the first place," he said. "Some people are actually losing jobs because they have to have a background check done and they can't hold a job with a record."

The bill passed almost unanimously, 198-1, Sept. 23 by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Solobay said the House bill also included some misdemeanors.

He said the period would be seven years for someone who has committed a third-degree misdemeanor and 10 years for someone who has committed a second-degree misdemeanor, Solobay said.

Solobay said he hopes the Senate will pass the bill Wednesday.

It it passes on Wednesday, the House can sign it and "get it to the governor's desk" before session is over, he said.

Solobay said other than "thinning out" the number of people waiting to have their record expunged, the bill would also prevent major criminals from "slipping through the cracks" in the expungement process.

"It's only human nature that you may not put the same time and effort into something as you would if you had a small number," he said.

Solobay said one concern addressed in the House bill was that some things graded as misdemeanors in the past are now graded as summaries.

"There could be someone who had something as basic as a shoplifting charge that was a misdemeanor and is now just a summary offense," he said. "One person could get it expunged quickly through this process, and the other would have to go through the old process."

He said the misdemeanors that were included in the House bill are "non-violent."