What Is Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate Law?

A criminal record can negatively impact the lives of people in Pennsylvania. People with criminal records may have difficulty finding jobs and housing and obtaining certain types of loans. People who have criminal records may also have trouble securing professional licenses. Because of these problems, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a clean slate law. This law, which was fully enacted on June 28, 2019, provides a measure of relief to people who have criminal records. The legal team at DiCindio Law can help people to understand how the law might apply to them and other options that they might have for expunging or sealing their records.

What is the clean slate law?

The clean slate law includes two parts that are designed to make it easier for people who have criminal records to limit the public’s access to them. It also increases the types of records that are eligible. Finally, the Clean Slate Act requires that certain criminal records are automatically sealed after a specified period has passed.

What is limited access?

Limited access means that a criminal record is sealed. When a record is sealed, it still exists. However, the public cannot access it, and it is confidential. Sealing your record works to prevent members of the public, including landlords and employers, from gaining access to your criminal record so that you can enjoy a fresh start.

First part of the law: Act 5

The first part of the clean slate law, Act 5, was effective on Dec. 26, 2018. This part allows certain people to petition the court to issue an order of limited access. Eligible people include people who have served their sentences and paid any court-ordered restitution who have not been prosecuted or arrested for any offenses that are punishable for a year or longer in prison for the previous 10 years. The eligible offenses under Act 5 are fairly broad and include qualifying nonviolent misdemeanors and ungraded offenses that are punishable by up to five years in prison.

What is the process under Act 5 for limited access?

To be granted limited access under Act 5, you must go through the following process:

  • File a petition at the court where the conviction occurred.
  • The prosecutor will have 30 days to object. If the prosecutor objects, a hearing will be scheduled.
  • If the prosecutor does not object, or the petitioner prevails at the hearing, the petition will be granted.
  • Notice will be sent to the applicable criminal justice agencies to limit access to the records.

Part two of the law: the Clean Slate Act

The second part of the law went into effect on June 28, 2019. This part creates a way for access to some criminal records to occur without a petition. The Clean Slate Act creates an automated process to identify and automatically seal eligible records after a certain time has passed.

The automatic process works when the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts runs a search of the court records to identify cases that may be eligible. This list is then sent to the State Police. The State Police validate the eligible cases. The courts will then remove the validated cases from the public’s access to seal them.

Types of records that will be automatically sealed

The following types of records will be automatically sealed under the new process:

  • Third-degree misdemeanors and misdemeanors that are punishable by up to two years in prison as long as there aren’t any subsequent convictions punishable by one year or more for the
  • past 10 years when restitution has been paid; and
  • Charges that did not lead to a conviction; and
  • Summary offense convictions after 10 years have passed.

Certain types of criminal records are ineligible, including convictions for attempts, solicitations, or conspiracies to commit the following offenses:

  • Offenses that endanger a person
  • Offenses against the family
  • Offenses related to firearms or dangerous weapons
  • Offenses requiring sex offender registration
  • Offenses for failing to comply with sex offender registration requirements
  • Offenses for cruelty to animals
  • Offenses involving corruption of a minor
  • Felony convictions
  • Two or more offenses punishable by two or more years in prison
  • Four or more convictions that were punishable by one or more years
  • Indecent exposure offenses
  • Escapes in which a weapon was used

Who can access sealed records?

While the general public’s access is limited, certain parties will have access to the sealed criminal records. Employers that are required to consider the criminal records of applicants under federal law can access them. Employers who have obtained a court order to defend against a civil liability claim may also have access to them. State licensing agencies, law enforcement agencies, the Department of Human Services, and the Supreme Court can access the records.

Do you have to disclose sealed criminal records?

Under the law, people who have records sealed are not required to disclose them and can state that they do not have a criminal record. However, applicants to jobs with employers that are required to consider the criminal histories of applicants under federal law must disclose their sealed records to those employers.

FBI background checks and sealed records

Sealed records will still appear on FBI background checks. The FBI maintains copies of criminal records that are sent to it from Pennsylvania. If you apply for a job for an employer that is required to consider these records under federal law, you cannot deny its existence but can explain that it has been sealed under the Clean Slate Act.

Employer immunity

Employers that employ people whose criminal records have been sealed are granted immunity under the law. If a claim that the person has engaged in misconduct that relates to the sealed criminal record, the employer will not be liable.

Get help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer

If you believe that you might be eligible to have your record sealed, you might want to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney at DiCindio Law. We can review your record and explain whether you might be eligible to file a petition for an order of limited access. Schedule a consultation today by filling out our contact form or calling 610.430.3535.

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