Clean Slate Bill to Help Those Arrested Without Conviction or Convicted of Non-Violent Offenses

On June 28, 2018, Governor Tom Wolf signed into law the Clean Slate Bill, which amends Section 9122 of Title 18, to provide a mechanism to allow non-violent, misdemeanor offenders and those individuals whose arrests did not lead to a conviction to wipe the slate clean with respect to employers; landlords and other entities and individuals who may negatively view a criminal conviction or arrest, however minor and regardless of how long ago the criminal conviction or arrest took place.  This is the first law of its kind in the nation, and it aims to assist those who are often denied a job, housing, education, and other opportunities for what is a relatively minor blemish on an otherwise clean history.

Pursuant to the new law, with certain exceptions, an individual’s criminal history record for second or third degree misdemeanors, that carry sentences of two years or less, will automatically receive limited access, or be sealed, if the individual has paid all court-ordered financial obligations and has gone ten (10) years without a misdemeanor or felony conviction.  For those individuals whose arrests do not lead to a conviction, their criminal history record will automatically receive limited access after 60 days from the date of final disposition and the payment of any court-ordered obligations.  With certain exceptions, those individuals whose crimes make them ineligible for automatic limited access can petition the court to have their records sealed.

This is important because if limited access is granted and a person’s criminal history record is sealed, he or she is not required to report or disclose the criminal history when asked and can respond as if the offense did not occur.  Moreover, the arrest or conviction cannot be considered when a candidate is applying for a job.  Considering the large number of individuals with criminal records who have since enjoyed productive lives after having served their sentences, it is the goal of the new law to eliminate the stigma associated with a minor criminal record.  By removing the stigma, society as a whole, including business owners who might not otherwise have considered a qualified individual but for his or her criminal history, will be more likely not to hold a minor criminal incident against an individual.

The anticipated backlog of existing cases eligible for automatic limited access will be addressed immediately but may not be processed for up to one year from the effective date which, for the amendment of Section 9122.1 of Title 18, is 180 days or December 25, 2018.