Commonwealth v. Giulian
Ms. Giulian pled guilty to the summary offenses of underage drinking, public drunkenness and harassment in 1997 when she was 2 years old and the summary offense of criminal mischief the following year. She remained free of arrest and prosecution for the following 15 years, at which point she filed a petition to expunge both the 1997 and 1998 summary cases.
In 2013, Ms. Giulian was granted expungement for the 1998 case, but denied expungement of her 1997 case under an absurd interpretation of Pennsylvania’s summary offense expungement statute requiring that the petitioner to be arrest-free for “the five years immediately following the conviction.”
Juvenile Law Center filed an amicus brief with other amici challenging the Superior Court of Pennsylvania’s holding that Pennsylvania’s summary offense expungement statute requires the petitioner to be arrest-free for “the five years immediately following the conviction” contrary to the statutory text, legislative purpose, and reason. Our brief, drafted by Pepper Hamilton, LLC as pro bono counsel, underscored the negative impact of criminal records on society as a whole in addition to the individual record holders as a result of the barriers records cause to employment, housing, and higher education.
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania found in favor of Ms. Giulian, holding that an applicant is not statutorily barred from the expungement of a summary offense conviction due to subsequent arrests or prosecutions, provided that the applicant remain arrest and prosecution free for any five year period following the conviction in question, not just the five years immediately following the conviction. Importantly, the court noted “the intended remedial impact of the expungement statute” that “reveals obvious practical humanitarian objectives, which counsel [the court] to construe the statutory language liberally in favor of appellant.”