July 24th, 2020

Does the PA Clean Slate Law Seal My Criminal Record?

Since June 28, 2019 when the automatic sealing requirement went into effect, the PA Clean Slate Law has sealed more than 47 million individual offenses in Pennsylvania – including 2.4 million that originated in Lehigh County, and just under 1.8 million Northampton County cases.  While this automated process does not prohibit law enforcement and federal agencies from accessing this information, it removed approximately 35 million individual’s criminal records from being accessed by the public. If you have been convicted of a criminal act, you may be wondering: does the PA Clean Slate Law seal my criminal record?

How sealed records are helpful

Everyone makes mistakes. As mentioned in a previous blog, the PA Clean Slate Law automatically seals (not erases) the record of someone who took a misstep but then stays on the “straight and narrow” for 10 years. This is especially helpful for now adults, to have their past mistakes and minor indiscretions concealed from the general public.

As you apply for housing, employment, and higher education, you no longer have the disadvantage of a criminal record hanging over your head. The Clean Slate Law has had the impact its supporters were hoping – but the question remains: what is next? Advocates are now attempting to amend the statute to remove the condition that individuals must pay off all of their fines and costs before their record can be sealed.

If the Clean Slate Act doesn’t cover your crimes

Under the Clean Slate Law (and with a few exceptions), persons who were convicted of a misdemeanor or an ungraded offense carrying a maximum penalty of less than five years in prison are eligible to have their records sealed.

What if your record wasn’t automatically sealed by the Clean Slate Law? The good news is – you could still be eligible to have your record sealed through a Petition for Limited Access under Act 5.

Am I eligible to have my record sealed under a Petition for Limited Access?

You would be eligible if you served your punishment and completed court-ordered obligations (including payment of all fines and costs). In addition, you must be free of arrest or prosecution for 10 years for offenses punishable by one or more year(s) in prison or must have been convicted of “qualifying misdemeanors” or ungraded offenses punishable by five years or less in prison.

Crimes that are not eligible for the automatic sealing under the Clean Slate Act but are eligible under a Petition for Limited Access include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Simple assaults graded as second and third degree misdemeanors
  • Reckless endangerment
  • Harassment
  • Criminal coercion
  • Sale or transfer of firearms graded as second degree misdemeanors
  • Corruption of minors graded as summary offenses
  • Carrying loaded weapons other than firearms
  • Sale or transfer of firearms

If you have any questions about whether you can seal your criminal record, please contact our Criminal Defense group for a consultation.

A former assistant district attorney, Attorney Sarah Hart Charette has an extensive background in trial preparation and litigation. She strives to provide clarity to her clients who are often simply confused and overwhelmed by the legal process.