While many have rightfully hailed the passage of the Pennsylvania Clean Slate Law as a life-changer for those with old and minor criminal convictions, there is much about the legislation that will remain unclear until the law goes into effect.
What is Clean Slate?
Starting in January 2019, people with qualifying criminal convictions in Pennsylvania can start filing petitions to have them sealed under Clean Slate. The petitions must be filed in the local courts where the conviction occurred, and all previous and existing fines and court costs must be paid in full.
Convictions eligible for sealing are primarily second- and third-degree misdemeanors, although some first-degree misdemeanors are now eligible for sealing under Clean Slate. All eligible convictions must be more than 10 years old and the person requesting relief must also be conviction-free for 10 years.
Starting in January 2020, qualifying criminal convictions will be automatically sealed for persons who meet the above criteria.
What does it mean to have a record sealed?
To have a record sealed in Pennsylvania is to have the record closed from view by the general public. This does not, however, mean that the record is completely beyond reach of certain interested parties. Although most employers, landlords, and schools will not have access to sealed records, employers who utilize background checks or are otherwise required to review criminal records under federal law will still have access to your sealed convictions, as will law enforcement and prosecutors. This means a sealed record can still be used against you by the Commonwealth in the event you are charged with another crime.
Unlike expungements, sealed records are not removed from the system.
What else should I know about Clean Slate?
Although most violent and sexual offenses are rightfully exempt from Clean Slate, there are other caveats in the law that can prevent you from having your records sealed. In addition to paying court costs and having no other convictions within the past 10 years, if you have any felonies or other first-degree misdemeanors anywhere on your record, none of your other misdemeanors can be sealed. Likewise, if you have four or more misdemeanors that are graded as second degree or higher—even if they are all individually eligible to be sealed—they collectively render you ineligible for relief under Clean Slate.
Do I need to disclose my Clean Slate convictions?
No. Under Pennsylvania law, records sealed under Clean Slate are not considered “convictions,” in the conventional sense. Although law enforcement, prosecutors and certain interested parties can view the records, unless the information is requested by a criminal justice entity or is required under federal law, you may respond as if the sealed conviction doesn’t exist.
What do I do now?
As previously mentioned, in order for your Clean Slate petition to be considered, you must file it in the court where the case was heard. It’s important to know that each court has its own system for filing Clean Slate petitions, and each may have a different fee associated with the filing.
An experienced attorney like Mark F. Walmer, who specializes in pardons and expungements, can help make sure your petition gets the attention it deserves and your rights under the law are protected. Contact him today, and get a head start on your second chance.Get My PA Record Report » Get Pardon & Expungement Help »