Pennsylvania Expands Their Clean Slate Law
April 10, 2023
Since its passage in 2019, Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate Law has resulted in more than 40 million misdemeanor criminal cases having their records automatically sealed from public view, affecting more than 1.2 million people. A criminal record presents serious barriers to moving forward in life, as employers are often hesitant to hire someone with a record. Housing opportunities and public benefits may also be negatively affected.
Conversely, when a person’s record is sealed, more opportunities open up for them. If you have a criminal record in or around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and you want to know how the recent expansion of the state’s Clean Slate Law operates and how you can benefit from it, or if you wish to pursue any other avenue to clear your name, contact me at The Law Offices of John Della Rocca.
I have more than two decades of experience as a criminal defense attorney, and I will assess your situation and help you achieve the best possible result. I also proudly serve clients in Delaware, Montgomery, Bucks, and Chester counties and throughout the state.
What Is Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate Law?
Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate Law is a mechanism that automatically seals criminal records for misdemeanors so long as all requirements of the conviction are met, such as parole, jail time, community service, and so on.
In 2021, Clean Slate 2.0 (House Bill 440) removed a requirement that had recently prevented many people from having their records sealed. The legislation eliminated the need to pay any court fees or fines before the sealing can take place.
Another feature of 2.0 is that it extends both sealing and the potential for expungement to those who receive pardons from the governor. Expungement means not only that the record is sealed from public view, but that it is also wiped from the database and even law enforcement officials cannot view it. Also, pardons can be issued for felonies, while Clean Slate applies only to misdemeanors.
HB 440 dramatically improved the chances for individuals to have their records sealed when it removed the requirement that all court costs and fines must be paid before sealing can take place. Restitution, however, must still be paid.
Rationale for HB 440
The reason for the change in paying off court costs and fines is that, according to a study by Philadelphia courts, some 70 percent of those who owe court debt are unemployed and impoverished and cannot pay. According to an analysis by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (PDAO), unpaid debt and incorrect or missing data prevented 50 percent of those with eligible misdemeanor convictions statewide from having their records automatically sealed, and 75% of those otherwise eligible in Philadelphia.
The system is automatic because it is based on data stored on government computers, though the data is sometimes incomplete, as noted above. When all obligations are met, and the time span since conviction has passed according to the standards of the law, the criminal record will be sealed.
Sealed means the public will not have access, but law enforcement will. With a pardon from the governor, you can even have your record expunged so that no one will have access to it, although you have to apply for the expungement. HB 440 also expanded automatic remedies to include the automatic expungement of full acquittals (cases with not-guilty verdicts).
Who Is Eligible & What Criteria Must Be Met?
Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate Law allows for the automatic sealing of most misdemeanor convictions after 10 crime-free years as well as summary offense convictions after 10 years. Charges that do not result in a conviction are now automatically expunged.
Understand How Clean Slate Operates
The Clean Slate Law is designed to function automatically based on data that’s been inputted. However, even the Philadelphia District Attorney notes that missing data can play a big role. Also, even if your record is sealed automatically, you will not necessarily be officially notified. Therefore, it’s a good idea to be proactive in following the process and helping get your record sealed on time.
For all your criminal defense, recording sealing, and expungement questions and concerns, contact me at The Law Offices of John Della Rocca. My hours are flexible and I’m available to answer your needs when they arise. Reach out today to get started.