Community Issues

Millions Get a "Clean Slate" Under Historic PA Law

Automatically sealing certain criminal records gives people a second chance.

A DUI. A shoplifting conviction. These are the kinds of things that can stick with you for life, affecting your ability to get a job, or even rent an apartment. But in Pennsylvania, it'll be like nothing ever happened. The state has started sealing more than 30 million criminal records as part of a Clean Slate bill signed into law last year.

Before now, you had to get a lawyer and go to court to get minor infractions or even non-convictions off your record. Now it will happen automatically. Governor Tom Wolf said he's proud that PA is the first to implement Clean Slate:

Clean Slate applies to people who've been found not guilty of a crime, or committed nonviolent crimes more than 10 years ago and kept a clean record. It also applies to misdemeanors that included less than two years in prison. It doesn't include serious crimes like sexual assault, homicide and child endangerment.

Sealed records won't show up on background checks used by most employers, landlords and colleges, CNN reports . Police and those who use FBI background checks will still be able to see them.

Sealed records won't show up on most background checks.

Other states are consider Clean Slate laws, including Michigan and Colorado.

"We will be freeing thousands of people from the handcuffs of history." PA Gov. Tom Wolf

"I just feel like a weight will be lifted off my shoulders," a woman named Nichole told NPR . She has a string of petty arrests including shoplifting from decades ago that were preventing her from getting her dream job as a police officer. Those records will now be sealed.

Some employment checks, including FBI background checks, will still be able to access the sealed records.

If you'd like to see a Clean Slate law passed in your state, write to your state lawmakers and demand it! You can even include a link to this story.

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