You may not know it, but your past is for sale. In the crowded and lawless bazaar of the internet, every scrap of information about your life which can be gathered is for sale. That includes information about any interaction with the criminal justice system you may have had. No matter how long ago, how trivial, or how false the accusation against you, a simple Google search will return dozens of websites offering to sell information about it.
For good or ill, it is now a reality that employers, prospective customers, and even social acquaintances use the Internet to learn about the people they encounter. Any negative information, particularly as it relates to the criminal justice system, can, however unfairly, affect your future.
The General Assembly of Pennsylvania has recognized the damaging effect that criminal history information, and ready access to it, can have on people in their everyday lives. On November 14, 2016, a new law will take effect to help protect people from improper access to criminal history information. Starting on that date, if you, or someone you know, has a criminal conviction for one or more Misdemeanors of the second or third degree or other ungraded offenses, there is a new way to limit access to those records.
Individuals who have convictions for Misdemeanors of the second or third degree or ungraded offenses, if they have been free of arrest or prosecution for a period of ten years, and are not under supervision, will soon be able to ask a court to limit access to their criminal history. Under the new law, individuals who qualify and ask the court will receive a court order directing that information about a qualifying individual’s criminal history can only be released to criminal justice or government agencies. For people who qualify, all that potentially damaging criminal history information can be placed out of reach of all but criminal justice and government agencies.
But you have to ask. You must file a request with your county court receive this new protection.
This is a new law and the procedures for requesting and receiving the protection it provides are developing. Call us now or email us at the address above/below to talk to an experienced attorney in our Criminal Justice Section to see if you qualify for this protection. Employers, customers, and people we meet in our everyday lives aren’t going to stop Googling us. That’s a reality. But this law gives us tools we can use to keep old, irrelevant records from costing us personal or professional opportunities.