STATE—The near-unanimous passage of the Clean Slate Act in June 2018 made it easier for those convicted of lesser crimes to return to life post incarceration.
Announced Wednesday by Governor Tom Wolf, the “My Clean Slate” program aims to alleviate the navigation of this new legislation for those “...who wish to wipe clean the slate of their past...”
Signed into law on June 28, the Clean Slate Act “...expands criminal record sealing to include more types of offenses, including some first-degree misdemeanors, which can be sealed by filing petitions,” states a release.
Additionally, the law will create an automatic sealing process by which arrests with no convictions will be sealed within 60 days, summary convictions will be sealed after 10 years, and some second and third-degree misdemeanor convictions will be sealed after 10 years if no further misdemeanors or felonies were committed.
According to the Community Legal Service (CLS) of Philadelphia, records which are sealed under the Clean Slate Act can only be viewed by law enforcement entities, employers required by federal law to consider records, and employers who use FBI background checks.
Sealed records are different from expunged records in that the latter are destroyed.
Sealed records can still be expunged if they meet the criteria.
This automatic sealing process is expected to go into effect by June 28, 2019.
“As of December 26, 2018, non-violent first-degree misdemeanors and most simple assault convictions became eligible for sealing, if the individual has not been convicted for ten years and if no fines and costs are owed,” stated Sharon Dietrich, Legislation Director for Community Legal Services, in a press release.
Community Legal Services, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA), created the My Clean Slate program to provide free legal consultation for those looking to take advantage of the Clean Slate records sealing.
PBA President-elect Anne N. John stated of My Clean Slate in a press release, “For those eligible, the impact of this program will be life-changing, opening doors to better opportunities for housing and jobs.”
According to CLS, those wishing to seal their records under Clean Slate can do so starting this month.
“Cases eligible to be sealed under Clean Slate can be filed with the local court where your case was heard,” states the CLS website.
As of the writing of this story, Pennsylvania was the first and only state in the United States to pass Clean Slate legislation, states a release from the Governor's office.
Having only recently been implemented, My Clean Slate doesn't yet have a formal presence in Wayne County, explained local Bar Association President, Ronald Bugaj.
The Wayne County Bar Association is between meeting at the moment, but will discuss the matter in due time.
Bugaj noted the legislation is “a great idea” because of the chance it gives those eligible to clean their slate.
He noted there is some danger in that most employers will not have access to information about individuals with sealed records, but “for the most part, the benefits outweigh the risks.”
More information about the Clean Slate Act and the My Clean Slate program is available online at https://clsphila.org/mycleanslatepa.
—Information from a release was used in this story.