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June 28, 2018

Gov. Wolf signs new 'clean slate' bill for people living with criminal records

The law will automatically seal lower-level, nonviolent crimes from public review after 10 years

Gov. Tom Wolf signed new legislation on Thursday that will automatically seal lower-level, nonviolent crimes from public review after 10 years, the Associated Press reported.

Only after the individual has served their sentences and remained crime free for "long enough to demonstrate rehabilitation" will they qualify under the new law, the legislation reads.

The law won't expunge convictions — but it will shield these crimes from public review in an effort to help those living with criminal histories the opportunity to more easily find jobs, education and housing without the hardships often associated with living with a record.

Per the legislation's language, these individuals are "inherently harmed by the maintenance" of a criminal record and often hold a "constitutional presumption of innocence."

The law has been deemed a "clean slate remedy" because only police, courts and prosecutors will be able to see these kinds of nonviolent crimes that did not result in convictions. It will also allow for these individuals to conceal their crimes from anyone who inquires, with exception to criminal justice agencies.

Other longterm goals for the law include avoidance of recidivism by offenders, to provide hope for the alleviation of hardships often associated with having a criminal record, to reduce costs on the state's prison system and to ensure criminal justice agencies always have access to criminal histories.

The records will be automatically sealed if the defendant completes 10 years without a new conviction.