As reported by the Pennsylvania Bar News, in June 2018, Governor Tom Wolf signed the Clean Slate Act, making Pennsylvania the first state in the nation to enact automated sealing of criminal records by technology. Automated sealing began this June, and so far, about 7.5 million of the 30 million eligible criminal records have been sealed, with the rest of the backlog, at the rate of 3 million per month, to be sealed by the end of June 2020.
The law calls for the sealing of arrests that did not result in convictions within 60 days, summary convictions after 10 years, and certain second- and third- degree misdemeanor charges if the person’s record has been clean for 10 years. Some first-degree misdemeanor convictions can be sealed by petition. For a record to be automatically sealed, all court fines must have been paid. Records of serious crimes such as violence, sexual assault, homicide and child endangerment are not eligible to be sealed. While records will stay hidden from public view, they will remain visible to law enforcement agencies and to employers who are required under federal law to consider records and those who use FBI background checks.
The Clean Slate law means that sealed records won’t show up on background checks used by a majority of employers, landlords and colleges. If information regarding criminal history is requested by an employer, school or landlord, a person whose case has been sealed by Clean Slate may respond as if the offense did not occur. If your whole record has been sealed, you can say you do not have any record.
The Pennsylvania General Assembly is considering two parallel bills with strong bipartisan support, S.B. 637 and H.B. 1477, that would make it easier for people with criminal records to get occupational licenses for careers such as nursing and hair styling. Some action on these bills is expected this fall.
The bills would end blanket bans on people with certain records. People who wish to pursue an occupation and complete the required training and practice hours would get individualized consideration of their suitability. The bills would forbid automatic rejection of anyone with certain convictions when that rejection is based on his or her record.
To ensure that people don’t waste money on training they can’t use, the bills would allow people, prior to taking out student loans and enrolling in classes, to get a preliminary decision on whether their records would preclude a license.
The bills would also require that applicants be excluded only for convictions directly related to practice of profession. Under current law, licensing boards regularly reject applicants for crimes that have nothing to do with the practice of the profession.
Many occupational licensing laws mandate consideration of vague, hard-to-define phrases such as “moral turpitude” and “good moral character.” These bills would require licensing boards to apply one set of specific, concrete rules that are fair and consistent.
I will continue to keep track of the progress of this legislation and update this blog with each step forward. Our legislature should be congratulated for implementing these important reforms. If you think you may be eligible for automatic sealing of a criminal record, you can check by going online at mycleanslatepa.com