5 Common Questions about PA's Clean Slate Law

Pennsylvania's Clean Slate Law, implemented in 2018, is a significant step towards criminal justice reform, offering individuals with a criminal history a fresh start. This law allows certain criminal records to be sealed from public view, thereby increasing opportunities for employment, housing, and more.

However, the law is complex and often leads to several questions. Here, we address five common questions regarding this groundbreaking legislation.

#1. Who Is Eligible for the Clean Slate Law?

On December 14, 2023, Governor Shapiro signed HB 689, or Clean Slate 3.0, into law. Clean Slate 3.0 is an expansion of the original Clean Slate law. Under this expansion, thousands more individuals will have their records sealed, including eligible drug and theft-related felony convictions, after ten years. For misdemeanors and summary offenses, the waiting period for sealing has been shortened to 7 years.

Despite the broadened scope of Clean Slate 3.0, certain individuals and offenses remain ineligible for record sealing. Notably, individuals convicted of violent offenses such as murder, sexual assault, and any crimes committed against minors cannot have their records sealed. Additionally, individuals with felony gun charges or those convicted of a crime that carries a sentence of 20 years or more are also exempt from the benefits of the Clean Slate Law. Lastly, individuals who have not fully paid their court-ordered financial obligations or have not completed their sentence, including probation and parole, are also ineligible.

#2. How Does the Clean Slate Law Work?

The Clean Slate Law operates largely through an automated system. Once you qualify, based on the nature of your conviction and the time elapsed since the completion of your sentence, your record will be sealed automatically. However, for some crimes, you may need to manually petition the court to have your record sealed.

Here's a basic rundown of the process:

  • Automatic sealing: The courts and law enforcement agencies will automatically seal the records of individuals who meet the eligibility criteria. The process is typically carried out annually.
  • Petition for sealing: In some instances, individuals may need to petition the court to seal their records. This is usually necessary for more serious charges. It's important to consult with a legal professional to understand whether this step is required in your case.
  • Review and appeal: If your application is rejected, you have the right to appeal the decision. However, it's crucial to note that this process can be complex and may require the assistance of a legal advocate.

#3. What Does It Mean When a Record Is Sealed?

A sealed record means that the details of your criminal history are hidden from public view. While it doesn't completely erase your conviction, it makes it inaccessible through public databases. This greatly reduces the chance of potential employers, landlords, or any other member of the general public from discovering your past criminal history. However, it's crucial to understand that sealed records are not entirely invisible.

There are certain circumstances where sealed records can still be accessed, including:

  • Law enforcement and judicial purposes: Sealed records can still be used in court proceedings and can be accessed by law enforcement agencies.
  • Licensing applications: Certain professional licensing bodies may have access to sealed records.
  • Child protective services: In cases involving child custody or other child protection matters, sealed records may be accessed.

#4. Will the Clean Slate Law Erase My Criminal Record?

The Clean Slate Law does not erase criminal records; instead, it seals them from public view. This means that while your criminal record will not be visible to most people, it still technically exists. The law essentially offers a way for eligible individuals to live their lives without the constant burden of a past mistake being visible to the public.

However, it's important to note that certain entities, such as law enforcement agencies, courts, and specific professional licensing bodies, can still access these sealed records. Moreover, the law doesn't impact the use of these records in subsequent criminal proceedings. If you commit another crime, your sealed record can still be used against you in court.

#5. What Impact Can the Clean Slate Law Have on My Life?

The Clean Slate Law can have a profound impact on your life, especially if your criminal history has been a barrier to opportunities and resources. One of the most significant effects of the law is that it may increase your chances of finding employment. Many employers conduct background checks, and a criminal record can often result in automatic disqualification. With your record sealed, you're more likely to pass these checks, opening up a wider range of job opportunities.

The law can also enhance your prospects in areas like housing and education. Many landlords and educational institutions also perform background checks and might deny your application based on a criminal history. Having your record sealed can remove this obstacle.

Here are some ways the Clean Slate Law can positively impact your life:

  • Increased employment opportunities: With a sealed record, you are more likely to clear background checks, making it easier to secure a job.
  • Better housing prospects: Landlords may be more willing to rent to you if they cannot access your criminal record.
  • Expanded educational opportunities: Some educational institutions may deny admission based on criminal history. A sealed record can help prevent this.
  • Enhanced self-esteem: Free from the stigma of a criminal record, you may experience increased self-esteem and confidence.
  • Positive societal perception: Without a visible criminal record, societal perception and treatment of you may improve, helping you reintegrate into society more effectively.

At Scaringi Law, we understand the importance of a clean slate and provide legal assistance to individuals seeking record sealing. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys can guide you through the complex process, ensuring your rights are protected.

Contact us at (717) 775-7195 or reach out to us onlineto schedule a consultation and learn more about how we can help you take advantage of this life-changing law.


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