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Historic Pennsylvania Law Automatically Seals Criminal Records

August 14, 2019

By Van Der Veen, Hartshorn, and Levin

At the end of June, the second phase of Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate law went into effect. That’s good news for those that have faced criminal charges in the past. Now, those records will no longer be available to employers, and others such as landlords that could keep those accused in the past from certain opportunities.

The law is a historic one, not just for Pennsylvania, but for the entire country. It’s the first time any state in the nation has automatically sealed records, without requiring individuals to first apply for it.

What is Record Sealing?

When a record is sealed in Pennsylvania, the actual record is not destroyed. It is simply no longer available to members of the general public. This includes employers, landlords, and most others that would perform a background check. However, some government agencies can still access them. Those that can still gain access to sealed records are courts, law enforcement agencies, professional licensing boards, and child protective services.

Many people confuse record sealing with record expungement, but the two are quite different. When a record is expunged, it’s not physically destroyed, either, but it is much less accessible. The prosecuting attorneys and the Pennsylvania State Police Central Repository still retain copies. In most cases though, having a record expunged is making it as though it never happened.

Who is Eligible

Unfortunately, not everyone in Pennsylvania with a criminal record is eligible to have their records sealed. Currently, those with non-convictions can have their records sealed. These are individuals that were charged with a crime, but never convicted of it.

Records of summary offenses are also eligible to be sealed. Summary offenses are the most minor types of crimes in Pennsylvania. They’re often called a non-traffic citation. Disorderly conduct, loitering, harassment, and retail theft are examples of summary offenses. These offenses are often punishable by a fine, with those accused rarely appearing in a courtroom.

Minor misdemeanors such as drunk driving and prostitution are also eligible to be sealed under the Clean Slate law.

In total, 40 million records are eligible to be automatically sealed in Pennsylvania. This changes the first phase of the Clean Slate bill, which went into effect in December of 2018. During that phase, those with criminal records had to apply to have their records sealed.

Records that did not result in a conviction can be sealed after 60 days, while those with convictions can be sealed after ten years. However, for clean slate to apply another crime could not have been committed within that decade. To have a record sealed, the defendant must have also paid all court fines and fees.

Need Help with a Criminal Charge? Call a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney

While this historic sealing of records is good news for all accused Pennsylvanians, the best possible outcome is to not be charged or convicted in the first place. To help you achieve this outcome, you need the help of a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney.

At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, we know how to defend those facing charges to help get their charges reduced, or dropped altogether. We want to put our experience to work for you, too. Call us at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online today and let us start building a solid defense for you.



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