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April 13, 2016

Pennsylvania lawmakers introducing 'Clean Slate Act' to seal nonviolent misdemeanors

Proponents say law would aid Pennsylvanians hampered by minor criminal offenses

State lawmakers announced Wednesday they are introducing a legislation that would automatically seal nonviolent misdemeanors and other minor crimes after an established period of time.

Dubbed the Clean Slate Act, the bipartisan proposal would unburden Pennsylvanians who struggle to obtain employment, housing or education due to a blemish on an otherwise clean criminal record, state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams said.

Williams, a Philadelphia Democrat who is among a bipartisan group of sponsors, said constituents come to his office nearly every day seeking help.

"They're frustrated that they can't go to work," Williams said. "They can't pay their bills. They can't provide for their families. They can't raise their children. They're no longer a threat to society, but they clearly are frustrated by their ability to contribute to society."

Under the legislation, there no longer would be a need to pay for expungements. Only law enforcement officials would be able to see sealed offenses. 

Nonviolent misdemeanor convictions automatically would be sealed 10 years after the last conviction without a subsequent misdemeanor. Juvenile adjudications would be sealed after seven years while summary offenses would become sealed after five years. Charges that do not result in a conviction would be sealed after 60 days.

"I think the bill has a good chance to succeed because it's bipartisan," Williams said.

Identical bills are being introduced in both the state House and Senate.

State Sen. Scott Wagner, R-York County, and State Reps. Sheryl Delozier, R-Cumberland County, and Jordan Harris, D-Philadelphia, are co-sponsoring the legislation.