Past criminal convictions can impact your ability to move forward by affecting access to housing, employment and a steady income. Pennsylvania enacted a new law to adjust these inequities in June 2019, known as the Clean Slate Law.
Unlike similar laws in other states that allow individuals to apply for record expungement, Pennsylvania’s law automatically seals the records of eligible candidates. This removes past convictions from public view except in very limited circumstances.
Who is eligible?
Approximately 30 million individuals will benefit from this initiative, designed to provide a second chance to the state’s residents while reducing government costs associated with an application-based expungement program. To qualify, you must:
- Have a nonviolent misdemeanor charge on your record from more than 10 years ago
- Have no additional convictions in the past 10 years
- Repay all outstanding fines and court fees
Certain misdemeanor convictions will still require a court petition for sealing. Felony convictions are not eligible for sealing.
How does the program work?
Beginning in June 2019 and projected to end in June 2020, the state will automatically seal all eligible criminal records. After sealing, the court conceals these records from employers, educational institutions and landlords who check your background, increasing your chance of obtaining suitable housing and a steady job. Law enforcement entities and employers who require an FBI background check can still access these records, however.
How do I view my criminal record?
To learn more about your eligibility, you can look up your record using online tools from the District Court and/or the Court of Common Pleas. The website lists active convictions by case number, and you can click on each link for more information. If you have eligible convictions the court has not yet sealed, you can complete a sealing petition to expedite the process.
When you face a criminal charge, protecting your legal rights will significantly impact your future. Many states are currently considering their own version of the Clean State Law to expand opportunities for nonviolent offenders.