At the end of June 2018, the governor of Pennsylvania signed the "Clean Slate" law. Pennsylvania's Clean Slate law has a stated intention of reducing the burden of carrying a criminal record and the long-lasting deleterious effects that individuals can experience even from arrests that don't yield convictions. The law combats those outcomes by automatically sealing criminal records under certain circumstances.
Pennsylvania is far from the only state to offer the opportunity to seal old records, but what makes the state's efforts unique is its automation.
Beginning July 1, 2019, a computer program designed for the task began sorting through the millions of criminal records held in the state, searching for individuals who meet the criteria for record sealing. Individuals do not need to apply, go to court, or submit any evidence in support of their case—if their profile matches the criteria, their records will automatically go under seal, which removes the records from public view and limits their availability to employers through tools such as backgroundchecks.com's US OneSEARCH. Pennsylvania is the first state to fully automate this process.
What are those criteria? First, the offense must fall into an appropriate category, typically second- or third- degree misdemeanors, though the law also includes non-conviction arrests and summary judgments; violent crimes and sex offenses are not up for consideration. Second, the individual must meet any financial obligations, such as fees and court costs, imposed upon them. Third, at least ten years since the individual's last conviction must elapse.
Officials expect that the process may put nearly half of all the criminal records held by the state of Pennsylvania under this seal.
The records will not be expunged, however, a term that indicates the removal of records so that it is as though a criminal offense never occurred. Sealed records will not be invisible, either: FBI-run background checks may still report the arrests and offenses, and employers with a legal mandate to vet candidates for a criminal background before hiring will also have the opportunity to review this information.
For most people, the law represents a step towards more employment opportunities. The Pennsylvania legislature is now considering an additional bill that would loosen restrictions on professional licensing for job roles such as nursing by removing automatic denials for felony convictions.
While Pennsylvania is the first state to put computer programs in charge of record sealing, it is not the only state that allows individuals a "second chance" to approach their job search without the burden of a criminal record. backgroundchecks.com is proud to partner with sister site MyClearStart to provide a window into what's possible through these processes.
With the growth of the "ban the box" and "Fair Chance" movements, there are more opportunities than ever to expand employment prospects. Use MyClearStart to review your eligibility for criminal record expungement or sealing, then connect with a qualified lawyer to learn about next steps.
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is Chief Marketing Technologist at EY-VODW.com and has over two decades of experience in digital consulting, online product management, and technology innovation. He is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments.