As more soldiers have returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan, state agencies have had to develop new programs to assist those who serve our country to re-enter society. As part of this effort, the Pennsylvania Judicial System has addressed an uptick in veterans appearing in courts. In Philadelphia, a Veterans Court recently opened joining two others already up and running in Pennsylvania. The purpose of the Veterans Court is to help veterans accused of non-violent offenses whose military service may have been a factor in their conduct, such as veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or who are homeless.
As his father's fiancée lay in bed, nine months pregnant, Jordan Brown picked up a .20-gauge shotgun and fired a fatal blast into the back of the woman's head, killing her and the fetus. Our criminal justice system is set up to punish those responsible for these horrific acts. Prosecutors have a duty to show the calculated mindset of the accused and to ask a jury to levy the punishment against those found guilty.
Innocent or guilty, you have been charged with a crime. Your mind is racing - you have a lot of confusing decisions to make and not a lot of time. The criminal justice system can be a scary environment to those unfamiliar with how it works.
I am often asked by people who have experienced the criminal justice system resulting in a conviction or a diversionary program if their "record" can be expunged. In Pennsylvania, until recently, once an adult is convicted of a crime, they cannot expunge the conviction regardless of the crime. In other words, if you were convicted of Drunk Driving or any other crime, you could not get it expunged. This still remains the law in most situations. If asked on a job application or a security clearance or a college admission application if you've been convicted of a crime, the answer should be a truthful "yes". In December 2008, a new law was passed that allows for the expungement of a summary offense conviction to be expunged after 5 years have passed since the conviction and there are no further arrests or convictions.