Owing to a new law enacted in 2018 through House Bill 1419, Pennsylvania residents convicted of nonviolent misdemeanors may find their records eligible for sealing from the public docket. Under the Clean Slate program, information regarding convictions for certain nonviolent offenses may no longer appear during a background search.
Eligible residents include those who completed their sentences, paid their fines in full and did not receive an additional conviction 10 years from the offense. As reported by CNN, about 30 million records may qualify for automatic removal from the Keystone State’s criminal records database.
Eligibility and qualification process
Generally, many nonviolent convictions that resulted in a punishment of fewer than two years imprisonment may disappear from the public’s view. Individuals charged with a misdemeanor, but not convicted by the court may also find their case records sealed.
Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate program began the process of automatically sealing qualified records in June of 2019. The automatic sealings do not require a court petition to initiate the process. The new legislation also enables an individual who does not receive a sealing automatically to petition the court for one if they have had no further convictions in 10 years.
Record sealing, employment and housing
Overall, nearly 70 million individuals living in the U.S. have some type of criminal record, making it difficult for them to secure employment, housing or educational opportunities. A 2015 survey conducted in part by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that approximately 34% of unemployed males of prime-working age possessed a criminal record. Without it, they may have secured employment that would have provided them with a steady income and also benefited their families and communities.
When landlords and potential employers conduct a background check on an individual while considering renting or hiring, a record sealed under the Clean Slate program may not appear. As noted by one of the bill’s cosponsors, the program helps remove barriers to housing and employment that once existed for nonviolent offenders who have reformed themselves. Felony convictions and information available in the FBI’s database, however, may remain viewable through a public search.