A “Clean Slate” in Pennsylvania
The first phase of Pennsylvania's “clean slate” law that seals lower-level, nonviolent crimes from public review has gone into effect as of Wednesday, December 26. This means that people can now petition for certain misdemeanors, such as simple assault, intoxicated driving and theft, to be sealed.
What is Clean Slate?
Clean Slate is a new Pennsylvania law that expands criminal record sealing to include more types of offenses, including some first-degree misdemeanors, which can be sealed by filing petitions.
Clean Slate will also create an automated computer process to seal arrests that did not result in convictions within 60 days, summary convictions after 10 years, and some second and third-degree misdemeanor convictions if there are no subsequent misdemeanor or felony convictions for a period of 10 years after the time of conviction.
What is “sealing”?
Once your record is sealed under Clean Slate, it can generally only be viewed by the following:
- Law enforcement entities (e.g. police, District Attorneys, courts, etc.)
- Employers who are required to consider records under federal law
- Employers who utilize FBI background checks
The vast majority of employers, landlords, schools, and the general public will NOT have access to sealed records. But, unlike expunged records, sealed records are not destroyed.
What convictions are newly eligible to be sealed?
Some first-degree misdemeanors are now eligible for sealing. Violent and sexual offenses are usually excluded. If you have more than one first-degree misdemeanor or have an additional felony, you will have to wait longer than 10 years.
Second-degree simple assault can now be sealed after 10 years. Other second- and third-degree misdemeanors already can be sealed after 10 years. If you have four or more convictions that are graded as a second-degree misdemeanors or higher, you will have to wait longer than 10 years.
The eligibility rules are complicated. You should consult a lawyer if you want to know whether your cases can be sealed.
What do I need to do to be eligible?
If you have cases that are eligible to be sealed under Clean Slate, the most important thing you can do is make sure you have paid any court fines and costs you owe. Fines and costs are usually only owed on cases where you were convicted (pled guilty or were found guilty) or were given a diversionary program (like ARD).
To find out what you owe, contact the court in the county where you had your case. Ask how much of your debt is supervision fees. You can also ask for a record of your payments.
How can I file a petition for my record to be sealed?
Cases eligible to be sealed under Clean Slate can be filed with the local court where your case was heard. Each court has different processes to file petitions so you should contact your local court or legal aid program for more information. There may be fees to file your petition(s), but you may be able to have them waived if you are low-income or represented by a legal aid program. Income eligible clients can apply to NPLS for assistance.
Do I need to disclose my sealed or expunged record(s)?
Records sealed under Clean Slate are not considered convictions. If information regarding criminal history is requested, a person whose record has been sealed by Clean Slate may respond as if the offense did not occur.
Can I still expunge my record?
Yes. If your record is eligible to be expunged under current Pennsylvania law, you can continue to file for expungement even after Clean Slate goes into effect.
Community Legal Services of Philadelphia – “Frequently Asked Questions about Clean Slate”