Pennsylvania Governor Signs Bill that Could Seal Some Criminal Records
It just got easier to seal criminal records in Pennsylvania. Governor Wolf recently signed into law House Bill 1419, also known as the Clean Slate Act, which automatically seals the record of certain offenses if the individual does not re-offend for ten years following a conviction. The law has been years in the making, with State Senator Williams and State Representative Harris fiercely advocating for its adoption within their respective legislative chambers.
In a press release, Governor Wolf stated that the Clean Slate Act is just one aspect of a comprehensive social justice reform package that he envisions for the commonwealth. “I believe that we can improve the criminal justice system,” the Governor said, adding that it’s possible to “protect victims while also ending a cycle of incarceration that has left so many people feeling trapped, helpless, and without an opportunity to return to society after they have been released.”
How Does the Clean Slate Act Work?
The Clean Slate Act enables you to seal criminal records for select offenses. When a record is sealed, it is effectively invisible to the public. This means that you won’t have to report the offense on a job, school, or loan application. However, your past criminal conviction will still be visible to the authorities to investigate and prosecute future offenses.
Some employers who perform FBI background checks will be able to access your sealed criminal record. So, depending on your career goals, you may want to seek the expungement of your offense if it is applicable. When you expunge your criminal record, it’s like the offense never happened. This is because when a record is expunged, it is actually destroyed.
The Clean Slate Act allows for the sealing of the following types of criminal records:
- Arrests that do not result in convictions (after 60 days)
- Summary convictions (after ten years)
- Misdemeanors (after ten years so long as there are no offenses during that period)
The eligibility rules for misdemeanors are somewhat complicated. Generally, most second and third-degree misdemeanors are covered by the Clean Slate Act. But first degree misdemeanors involving violence, firearms, or sexual conduct cannot be sealed. To find out for sure if your prior conviction is eligible for sealing, you should speak with a Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer.
It will take two years for the automatic record sealing process to begin. But starting in 2019, it will be possible to petition for the sealing of records relating to offenses that qualify under the Clean Slate Act. So if you want your records sealed sooner because of an upcoming job application, relief is will be available soon.
More Criminal Justice Reforms On the Horizon
Criminal justice reform is now being embraced by moderates from both parties. State and Federal legislators are working to undo the damage of “tough on crime” policies that filled up jails and did little to rehabilitate offenders. Judiciary Committee Chairman Stewart Greenleaf, used to believe that harsh criminal punishment would reduce crime. Now, he realizes, “the system we have now doesn’t work,” because “punishment without rehabilitation is a failure.”
The Judiciary Committee has the power to facilitate the passing of legislation that pertains to the justice system. In his role as chairman, Greenleaf has been pushing dozens of measures that encourage rehabilitation, fair punishment, and due process for people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Until these reforms see the light of day, the criminal justice system will continue to place the accused at a severe disadvantage.
Review Your Options with a Pittsburgh Criminal Defense Lawyer
At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, our goal is to level the playing field in favor of our clients. If you or a family member has been accused of a crime or want to pursue the sealing of a prior record, call us today at (412) 281-2146 for a free consultation.