The Senate Wednesday unanimously approved bipartisan legislation-- Senate Bill 529-- sponsored by Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) and Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) to provide for automatic sealing of criminal records for minor offenses.
Senate Bill 529 would allow for the automatic sealing of low level, non-violent criminal offenses, eliminating the need for individuals to petition the court. This “clean slate” measure and a companion bill-- House Bill 1419 (Delozier-R-Cumberland)-- are the first of their kind in the nation.
“More than one-third of the Commonwealth’s working-age citizens are estimated to have criminal records. Many have only minor offenses, such as misdemeanors, while others simply have arrests without conviction,” said Sen. Wagner. “As a business owner, I understand how this can be a barrier to employment and a better life. Removing that barrier will allow more Pennsylvanians to live as productive citizens.”
“In our fight for criminal justice reform, we’ve taken a great stride toward restoring the full benefit of citizenship to individuals with criminal backgrounds,” Sen. Williams said. “The ability to work and make meaningful contributions to society is at the core of our democracy. This bill will help millions do just that.”
Under the legislation, misdemeanors would be sealed after 10 years of the individual being crime-free and as long as court obligations have been met. Non-convictions would be sealed after 60 days and fulfillment of court obligations.
It also exempts individuals with a sealed record from having to disclose criminal history records. This is often a huge hurdle for individuals attempting to obtain a job or housing.
The bills applies only to non-violent misdemeanors. Offenses that do NOT qualify under Clean Slate include--
-- Offenses involving danger to the person;
-- Offenses against the family;
-- Offenses relating to firearms and other dangerous articles;
-- Offenses relating to registration of sexual offenders;
-- A violation relating to indecent exposure;
-- A violation relating to failure to comply with registration requirements;
-- A violation relating to weapons or implements for escape;
-- A violation relating to cruelty to animals; and
-- A violation relating to corruption of minors.
Senate Bill 529 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.