By: Andrea Sears
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Many Pennsylvanians with old criminal records are now eligible to have those records sealed.
The first phase of the state’s Clean Slate Act went into effect the day after Christmas. That means people convicted of second-degree simple assault and some first-degree misdemeanors, and who’ve had no other convictions for at least ten years, can apply to have their records sealed.
Elizabeth Randol, legislative director with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, says that will bring welcome relief to thousands who may have been blocked from jobs, housing, even some loans, for a mistake made years ago.
“It does not come up on any criminal record background check or searches, and you are also not obligated to check the box that says, ‘Have you ever been convicted?’ So, you are under no obligation to check ‘yes’ if your record has been sealed,” says Randol.
Sealed records will still be seen in federal background checks.
The second phase of the law, automatically sealing some low-level criminal records, will begin on June 28. Randol notes that feature of the law makes it unique.
“No other state has this type of automatic procedure that, after a certain period of time, without any additional charges on your record, it will automatically seal those records,” says Randol.
Offenses now eligible for sealing include driving while intoxicated and some theft and drug crimes.
Randol adds there is more that can be done, such as adding additional eligible offenses, but she thinks the Clean Slate law is a step in the right direction.
“Hopefully the legislators, once they get any of the kinks worked out in it, will look at trying to reduce the period of time one needs to wait before those records are sealed,” says Randol.
More information about the Clean Slate Act is available through Community Legal Services of Philadelphia at ‘clsphila.org.’