Pennsylvania Governor Signs Criminal History “Limited Access” Bill into Law

Posted: February 18, 2016

Limited Access Bill

As announced on February 16, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 166 into law. In addition to other criminal justice reform measures, SB 166 allows for limited access of certain criminal history information. According to the legislation, any individual who has been “free of arrest or prosecution following conviction or final release from confinement or supervision” (whichever comes later) for a period of ten (10) years is eligible to petition the court of common pleas in the particular jurisdiction where the conviction occurred to grant a limited access status to the record(s). Offenses eligible for the limited access designation include convictions for: misdemeanor of the second degree, misdemeanor of the third degree or an ungraded offense that carries a maximum penalty of two (2) years. Upon a successful petition, the conviction information may only be distributed to a criminal justice agency or government agency as the law requires. Further, the individual would not be required to disclosure information about the criminal history records unless required by a criminal justice agency. SB 166 includes numerous offenses that are not eligible for a limited access petition. Such offenses include, but are not limited to, an offense punishable by imprisonment for more than two (2) years, four or more offenses punishable by imprisonment of one (1) or more years or an offense that requires registration on a sex offender registry. As outlined in the press release, the measures contained within SB 166 are designed to “reduce recidivism, relieve the pardon system, and provide ex-offenders greater opportunity to join the workforce.” Criminal justice reform, particularly with respect to easing the barriers for ex-offenders to find employment, has become an increasingly more popular topic that has been addressed by city councils and state legislatures through a variety of reform methods such as ban the box legislation and certificates of good conduct.