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Pennsylvania Governor Signs Into Law New Bills to Help Convicts, Extends Postconviction Filing Time Limits

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed into law in October 2018 three new provisions that will help convicts. Calling it “commonsense legislation,” Wolf said he intended to promote “smart sentencing reform” by approving the bipartisan bills.

The first law eliminates driver’s license suspensions for non-driving infractions. Part of a failed War on Drugs, suspending a drug offender’s license was used as a punishment. “Having a valid driver’s license can make a difference in finding and retaining employment,” which helps pay restitution, Wolf said.

The second law extends the time postconviction relief may be filed based on new evidence from 60 days to one year. “The 60-day requirement, established decades ago, was burdensome and needed to be changed,” Wolf said. “It created a hardship for too many” filing for relief, he said.

The third law allows those not under a sentence to apply for DNA testing. Previously, someone had to be in prison or on supervision to obtain DNA testing. “It helps those who have been denied the ability to prove their innocence because their sentence expired,” Wolf said. “Justice doesn’t have to end when a sentence ends.”

Pennsylvania now joins 29 other states that do not limit DNA testing to only those serving sentences and expands DNA testing when new technology becomes available. 



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