Each legislative session thousands of bills and amendments are introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Only a fraction become law, and an even smaller portion receive wide media coverage.
These bills impact the lives of people living in Pennsylvania every day.
Each week The Sentinel will highlight one bill that has not received widespread attention.
About the bill
In some cases in Pennsylvania, first-time defendants have the ability to go through what is known as accelerated rehabilitative disposition. ARD is a process where a defendant serves some kind of penalty, usually things like community service or attend classes, before a finding of guilt.
After successful completion, the case is dropped and often the record of arrest and prosecution is expunged.
The whole process is meant to give low-level defendants an opportunity to make amends for their mistake while not having a criminal record follow them and impede their ability get a job or move on with their lives.
A bill in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives would add a bit of delay for defendants in removing those records after completing the program.
Rep. Perry Warren, D-Bucks County, has introduced House Bill 2589, which would impose a five-year delay in the expungement of records if the crime was committed in the presence of a person younger than 14.
Warren wrote in a co-sponsorship letter that one of his constituents told him that a friend who was caring for the constituent’s child was arrested and charged with a crime that was committed while the child was present. That person was offered accelerated rehabilitative disposition and their record was expunged.
“By maintaining the public record of the offense for the five-year period, this legislation will give parents, potential child care employers and others the opportunity to make an informed decision about whether a person should be responsible for a child’s care,” Warren wrote in the co-sponsorship.
Warren’s bill, however, provides no explanation as to what “in the presence of child under age 14” means.
A person who is arrested on a public street for possession of small amount of marijuana while a youth also is on the street could arguably have their expungement delayed five years while someone charged with simple assault without a youth present would not.