Expungement Efforts Take Center Stage in Several States

By Michael Klazema on 7/12/2018

For some job-seekers, the most harrowing part of the application process is not the interview but the initial paperwork. For those who live in areas where ban the box laws do not exist or do not apply to them, the "criminal history" portion of an application is often their most significant barrier to a good job. Arrests, misdemeanor convictions, and other trouble with the law can send red flags to an employer that may cause them to opt for another candidate. At the same time, many locales still face a pressing need for more significant numbers in the labor force. 

Several states have put forward "clean slate" laws that provide clear legal procedures for expungement for some types of criminal records. In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf recently signed into law a bill that provides for sealing records for nonviolent misdemeanors after ten years of good behavior. The new law also automatically seals all third- and second-degree misdemeanors under the same circumstances. 

States typically prohibit employers from asking about sealed records. From the state's perspective, a sealed offense is legally considered to have never happened. A state-level background check, such as those provided by, would not return expunged records or those under seal. 

A similar effort in South Carolina aimed at providing expungement opportunities recently hit a speed bump as the state's governor declared expungement was tantamount to "erasing history." The new law could expand the state's expungement procedures to include first-time offenses for drug possession and some nonviolent felonies. 

South Carolina requires three years of a clean record instead of 10. Because these types of convictions are barriers to employment, chambers of commerce in South Carolina and legislators believed offering expungement opportunities to these individuals could improve the availability of suitable candidates across the state. Governor Henry McMaster disagreed and vetoed the bill soon after it reached his desk. The legislature immediately took up the task again: both houses voted overwhelmingly to override the governor's veto and pass the bill into law. More South Carolinians will now have the chance to begin expungement proceedings by the end of the year. 

"Second chance" opportunities are invaluable for those who've paid their debt to society and want the chance for a clean start. If you've been arrested or convicted in the past, could you be eligible for expungement? can help through our independent partner MyClearStartDetermine your eligibility based on your state and receive helpful guidance on the next steps to take.

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