PA First ‘Clean Slate’ State Sealing Criminal Records

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has signed a “clean slate” bill that seals nonviolent criminal records after a decade, a move that progressive groups touted as a first for any state and a national model for planned federal legislation, reports the Tribune News Service. Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress said Pennsylvania is the first state with a clean-slate program. For thousands of Pennsylvanians now, “a single mistake won’t define the rest of their lives,” she said.

The new law allows Pennsylvanians to request sealing of nonviolent misdemeanor records that carried a sentence of a year or more in jail if they have remained out of trouble for 10 years and paid all fines and costs. It also implements automatic sealing of records for second- or third-degree misdemeanor convictions that carried sentences of two years or less if the individual avoided other convictions for a decade, and for arrest records of those who were never convicted. Offenses involving guns, sexual assaults/rapes, murder, kidnapping, child endangerment and endangering the welfare of children are not subject to the law. Proponents said the law would help those who might be hampered in finding jobs, housing or college opportunities by criminal background checks that show cases from years ago after they have improved their lives. Wolf said a minor criminal offense is frequently “a life sentence to poverty” for people who are dogged by decades-old convictions.

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