Steven Breit, a criminal defense attorney and FOX 43 legal analyst, appeared this morning to discuss expungements. The conversation began with the host, Amy Lutz, precariously asking “Is everyone eligible to get their record expunged?” Brett’s answer covers what many people are wondering: “If you were charged with a summary offense, and you are free from arrest or conviction for 5 years…you can have that summary offense expunged – that is erased from your criminal history. This is much different from states like California, where a criminal record cannot be completely erased, as the term “expungement” implies.
According to Breit, there is pending legislation (Senate Bill 166) to expand expunge-able offenses to misdemeanors of the third an second degrees, within certain guidelines. Breit went on to say, and as many people with criminal histories know”…having a criminal history is devastating.” He continued discussing the proposed legislation by saying that a misdemeanor of the third degree (simple assault – mutual combat, disorderly conduct, lesser drug offenses, etc) has a 5 year waiting period, while second degree misdemeanors have a waiting period of 10. Furthermore, only those under the age of 25 at the time the crime was committed are eligible. This leaves a large portion of the population who have committed crimes after that age, with the potential of many years of gainful employment ahead of them unable to find work due to mistakes made in the distant past.
Other crimes like weapons charges and domestic violence would be ineligible for expungement if this legislation is to pass the state senate. According to Breit, this legislation will have the effect of enabling individuals who currently have criminal records to expunge those charges, and work towards careers, and in some cases further their careers.
All around the country, expungements are becoming a common – and more accepted – way of cleaning up criminal record. Although California doesn’t allow for an expungement to completely erase an individual’s criminal history, it does provide much needed relief in the form of dismissing the charges that an offender was convicted of. This can be life changing in some cases.