Pennsylvania Senate Passes SB 166 – A New Expungement Bill


On February 23, the Pennsylvania State Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 166, which if enacted would improve the expungement law in Pennsylvania and provide former offenders a much needed second chance. SB 166 would expand the law to allow the expungement of some misdemeanor convictions in Pennsylvania after the former offender satisfies a waiting period. This bill would help many people who committed low-level misdemeanor offenses in Pennsylvania move past their prior mistakes.

Senate Bill 166 Provides for Misdemeanor Conviction Expungement

Pennsylvania Senate Bill 166 passed by Senate

SB 166, which was recently introduced by State Senator Stewart Greenleaf provides for the same changes to Pennsylvania’s expungement law as Senate Bill 391. Under the new law certain former offenders would be able to expunge their misdemeanor conviction after a waiting period has been satisfied. In October of 2013, the PA State Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 391, which provided for the same improvements to the expungement statute. However, following passage in the senate, SB 391 was sent to the PA House for consideration but was never brought up for a vote.

“A low-level misdemeanor in a person’s past can often serve as a continual barrier when seeking work, long after they have completed their sentence,” State Senator Greenleaf stated in his memorandum announcing the introduction of this bill. According to Greenleaf, SB 166 would help the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by “countering high rates of recidivism, relieving an overburdened pardon system, and providing an opportunity for ex-offenders to join our workforce.”

Limitations of the Current Law

Pennsylvania’s current expungement law prevents those individuals with misdemeanor or felony convictions to clear their record, regardless of how much time has passed. The limited situations in which a conviction expungement is permitted are if the individual is over seventy years of age and conviction free for five years or if the person has been dead for three years. SB 166 would allow people who have nonviolent second or third degree misdemeanors to petition to have their criminal records expunged if they have not re-offended in ten years for second degree misdemeanors or seven years in the case for third degree misdemeanors.

If Senate Bill 166 is enacted, Pennsylvania would join a growing number of states across the country that have recently improved their expungement laws in order to reduce the negative effects that a criminal record can have as a former offender tries to find employment and contribute to society. This trend shows that legislators are beginning to see the importance of allowing former offenders the opportunity to move forward without the stigma that comes with a conviction. The benefits are incalculable for the former offenders that directly benefit by becoming eligible to expunge his or her records, but society at large also stands to benefit from bills such as Senate Bill 166.

What is Next for Senate Bill 166?

Following its unanimous passage in the Senate, SB 166 will next go to the PA House for consideration. We will continue to post updates as this bill makes its way through Pennsylvania’s legislature.

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12 Responses to Pennsylvania Senate Passes SB 166 – A New Expungement Bill

  1. Carol G. says:

    Please get this bill passed! I need this to change direction in my professional career! I am a single mom and need to increase my income and without this bill being passed My options are limited!! Thank You.

    • Carmine H. says:

      SB 166 should include non-violent felonies, there are more individuals with non-violent felonies that would benefit from expungement of their record

  2. Carmine H. says:

    Bill 166 needs to include low level non violent FELONY convictions, People that have misdemeanor convictions are able to obtain employment faster then people with FELONY records. The recidivism rate is higher for those that have FELONY records than those with misdemeanors. The bill should be amended adding LOW LEVEL FELONIES this would put several thousands of people back in the workforce.

  3. Carmine H. says:

    SB166 does not go far enough it should follow the federal second chance law which allows for non-violent felonies to be expunged.

  4. Ben F. Linton, II says:

    This statute is extremely antiquated and it is my opinion that the eligibility requirements for expungement or in direct opposition to what the Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness….”
    Having worked hard and attained four college degrees and still have something that has become so trivial after 24 years is a kick in the gut. Being 70 years old or dead for three years….umm there really is no difference, from my perspective. I would say that an offence that was supposed to be 6 months probation and a fine should have been just that; not a 24 year sentence. I find this cruel and unusual the state has no compelling governmental interest to not expunge low level misdemeanors other than to continue to punish.

  5. Mark A. says:

    I can’t describe how disappointed I was that the House let Senate Bill 391 die after it was unanimously supported by the Senate. Senate Bill 166 gives so many of us new hope. Thank you to all who have crafted and supported this much needed legislation. I pray the House will act and do so quickly. Please keep me posted.

  6. Robin says:

    I took a nolo contendre plea for failure to report, it was a misdemeanor one. At the time I was not informed that a misdemeanor one was the highest grade of misdemeanor, I thought one was the lowest. Can I have my record expunged under this law. This was in 2013, I have never been arrested in my life other than this plea deal?

    • Jenna Thorne says:

      Unfortunately, the expungement bills that have been proposed in Pennsylvania would not allow for the expungement of a Misdemeanor 1. Currently, your only option for an M1 expungement in PA is if you first apply for and are granted a pardon by the governor.

  7. Jeff says:

    Well it does not even matter anymore because it is never going to be law, and it is not even an expungement bill anymore,….. It is called limited access <~~~~~ limited access is NOT expungement and you will still get turned for employment. They are playing games with our minds hinting that a new expungement law is coming soon,…….. But it is not. As soon as I can I am moving from this state, that's right……. I am taking my single third degree misdomeanor ass and my tax money and moving to West Virginia. My misdemeanor was over 20 years ago and still can’t get it expunged. I hate PA 😡😜

  8. Terry Bogard says:

    It looks like SB 166 passed in the House on October 27th, 2015. Can someone please confirm this?
    Check the history section at http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billinfo/bill_history.cfm?syear=2015&sind=0&body=S&type=B&bn=166

  9. bobbie jo s. says:

    Please pass this bill.

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