One of the most challenging aspects of being convicted of a crime comes long after sentencing. Though serving time is certainly hard, there are many who say that it’s harder still to turn your life around, only to find that the years-old conviction is still haunting you and keeping you from pursuing your dreams.
Having a criminal past can keep people from being able to access housing for themselves and their families, and from getting good jobs. This can trap them in a life of poverty, and even force them back into criminal activities. In recognition of this reality and in seeking a better way forward, the state of Pennsylvania has passed what is known as a “Clean Slate” law.
The clean slate law allows those who have been convicted or pleaded guilty to nonviolent crimes and who have gone 10 years without further legal trouble to seal their records. The state is the first in the nation to pass such a law, and Pennsylvania is being held up as a model for the rest of the nation to follow. Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions about the Clean Slate Law.
Who is covered by the new Clean Slate Law?
If you are an individual in Pennsylvania who has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor that carried a sentence of a year or more in jail, and you have stayed out of trouble for 10 years and paid all applicable fines and costs, then you are eligible to have your records sealed. For those who were convicted of or pleaded guilty to second or third-degree misdemeanors carrying sentences of two years or less and you’ve stayed out of trouble for 10 years, your records will be sealed automatically. The same is true for those who have been arrested and never convicted.
Does the law apply to all criminal convictions committed in the state?
No. Anybody convicted of kidnapping, child endangerment, endangering the welfare of a child, sexual assault or rape, murder, or any offense involving a gun is not eligible to have their records sealed under the Clean Slate Law.
Who can see a criminal record after it has been sealed?
Your criminal record will only be accessible to law enforcement, employers who are required to conduct background checks under federal law, and employers who utilize FBI background checks.
For information on how you may be impacted by the passage of the Clean Slate Law, contact our office today.