New Pennsylvania laws address minor offenses, license plates, OOS orders

| 12/5/2008

Two new laws in Pennsylvania are intended to benefit people who stay out of trouble and allow others to keep their license plates longer. Out-of-service orders also are addressed.

Gov. Ed Rendell signed a bill into law that allows people with summary convictions, also known as minor infractions, who are free of arrest or prosecution for five years to request that their records be expunged. Summary offenses include minor traffic violations, such as running a red light.

Under existing Pennsylvania law it can take up to four years for minor infractions to be removed from a person’s record.

Rep. Tim Solobay, D-Washington, said minor violations can severely hamper a person’s ability to gain employment or advance their career.

“This new law will give those who have had a minor lapse in judgment when they were younger an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and have a fresh start,” Solobay said in a written statement.

The new law – HB1543 – permits people with summary offenses to petition the local court to have their record expunged – as long as they have been free of arrest or prosecution for at least five years since fulfilling their sentence.

However, expungement will not be automatic. The court will have discretion as to whether to grant it. The new rule takes effect Jan. 26.

Another new law that takes effect on the same day allows vehicle owners to keep their plates longer. HB347 also includes a provision addressing violation of out-of-service orders.

The state will provide free new license plates once existing plates are no longer readable.
Pennsylvania law now requires license plates to be replaced every 10 years.

Drivers can contact the state when they need new plates. Law enforcement also can determine whether the tag cannot be read from a reasonable distance.

Advocates say the change will save the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation about $60 million over several years.

A separate provision in the bill focuses on violations of out-of-service orders. First-time offenders would be fined $2,500 – up from $1,100. Fines of $5,000 have been added for repeat offenders.

Drivers caught in violation of OOS orders while hauling hazardous materials would lose their driving privileges for two years.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Pennsylvania in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor