Senate Bill 529 and House Bill 1419, if passed, would automatically seal criminal records for certain offenses. The so-called “Clean Slate” legislation was voted out of committee in the Pennsylvania Senate recently, improving its chances of reaching the governor’s desk and being signed into law.
Currently, sealing a criminal record requires individuals to pay court fees and costs, go through the time-consuming process of scheduling and attending legal hearings, and in many cases, to work with a lawyer. The new bill, if passed, would save the time, money, and energy currently spent on many of these processes by automating the sealing of criminal records within two months of the date at which the record becomes eligible to be sealed.
When the record became eligible for sealing, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) would be required to pull the record and send it to the Pennsylvania State Police, which would have 30 days to check for conflicts. If the record is sealed, the individual to whom it relates would receive notice in the mail that the conviction will no longer appear on their background checks.
Not all criminal convictions would be eligible for sealing under the bill. Whether or not the record would be sealed automatically would depend on whether and when the law states the record can be sealed. Some serious crimes could not be sealed, while for other crimes, such as welfare fraud, sealing could occur after 10 years.
Legislators who support the bill are hailing it as a model for other states to follow in updating their criminal justice systems for the digital age and in encouraging individuals who have turned their lives around after a conviction to continue doing so.
The House version of the bill has yet to be voted out of committee. The governor has promised to sign the Clean Slate measure if the state legislature can pass it.
Criminal records can have a significant impact on your future plans and goals in a wide range of circumstances. To learn more about how you can mitigate the effects of a past mistake on your current life, talk to an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer.