A newly proposed bill in Pennsylvania aims to significantly expand the state’s Clean Slate law. It will seal the records of many more state residents. The Clean Slate Law, which passed in 2018, had a revision in 2020 before this newly proposed bill.
House Bill 1826 (HB 1826) will automatically seal low-level drug felony convictions if an individual goes ten years without committing an additional crime. It would also reduce the waiting periods for sealing records. Pennsylvania’s current Clean Slate Law seals the following records: lower-level interactions with the criminal justice system, convictions of second and third-degree misdemeanors, convictions of misdemeanors punishable by incarceration of two years or less, summary convictions, and charges which do not result in a conviction.
Under current Clean Slate Law requirements, eligible criminal records become sealed after ten years. This sealing happens if the individual avoids further convictions and if all court-ordered restitution occurred. However, HB 1826 reduces the waiting period for sealing these records. For example, the waiting period for misdemeanors punishable by two or fewer years and second- and third-degree misdemeanors would drop to seven years from the conviction. Additionally, the waiting period for summary convictions would become five years from the entry of judgment of conviction.
The bill has received wide support in the legislature. It comes in the wake of an effort by Pennsylvania’s governor, Tom Wolf, to pardon thousands of state residents with non-violent marijuana-related convictions. The 2020 revision and following changes now stipulate that any person who receives a pardon for a crime can expect automatically sealed records. Other changes included not waiving any restitution owed for convictions and expunging records if a non-guilty verdict is received.
Clean Slate Laws have grown in popularity across the country since Pennsylvania passed the first in the nation in 2018. Seven states have followed in its footsteps, introducing similar Clean Slate Laws. These laws attempt to give U.S. adults with criminal records equal opportunities to find gainful employment and safe housing.
Since the state’s original clean slate law went into effect, more than a million Pennsylvanians have benefited from its provisions. This statistic is good for workers and businesses alike. For example, research from the Society for Human Resource Management has shown that managers view the value these workers bring as equal to or greater than other workers. Therefore, this is an opportunity for employers and the community to benefit by giving these individuals another chance.
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