Low-Level Offenders Can Get Second Chance With New PA Law

Gov. Tom Wolf signing the bill into law Thursday at the Capitol in Harrisburg.
Credit: PA Internet News Service

New legislation signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf will allow people with low-level, non-violent criminal records to get a second chance.

The so-called “Clean Slate” bill was signed into law Thursday in Harrisburg. It will make Pennsylvania the first state in the country to seal criminal records for second or third-degree misdemeanor offenses automatically after 10 years with no new convictions.

The legislation also allows for individuals to petition the courts to seal their criminal record if they have been conviction free for more than 10 years for an offense that had them imprisoned for a year or more. A stipulation is all court-ordered debts must be paid.

More serious offenses, such as firearms charges, sexual offenses, murder, kidnapping, child endangerment, and endangering the welfare of children, will not be covered by the law.

“I am proud to sign this legislation, which will make it easier for those who have interacted with the justice system to reduce the stigma they face when looking for employment and housing,” Wolf, a Democrat, said. “Clean Slate passed in an overwhelmingly bi-partisan manner and I want to thank the General Assembly and the many advocates and stakeholders who made this possible.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner, who recently resigned from his state senate seat to focus on his campaign, has supported Clean Slate legislation. He said earlier this year that it has the “potential to change the lives of hardworking people who are trying to provide for their families and create a better life for their children.”

State Sen. Anthony Williams, A Democrat who supported the legislation with Wagner in the past, said he was pleased to see the governor sign the legislation.

“I look forward to welcoming these returning citizens to our workplaces and neighborhoods,” Williams said.

“People who have been convicted of or pleaded guilty to minor misdemeanors many years ago deserve a second chance,” bill sponsor State Rep. Sheryl Delozier, a Republican from Cumberland County. “They have shown that they have reformed their lives, and this barrier to employment and housing needs to be removed.”

Last year, Wolf  moved forward a state hiring “Fair-Chance” policy change, known more commonly as “banning the box.” The move removed the criminal conviction box on job applications for state positions, excluding civil service openings.

Speaking Thursday, Wolf called for more reform to the state’s criminal justice system.

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