Since it took effect in 2018, Pennsylvania's Clean Slate Law has given numerous state residents the ability to put a past mistake behind them. A significant step forward in criminal justice reform, it has provided a mechanism for the sealing of certain criminal records, helping individuals overcome the barriers and stigma associated with past convictions. Now, the law has been expanded to provide relief to additional individuals previously convicted of crimes. 

The 2024 update to the Clean Slate Law increases eligibility in two key ways:

  • Sealing of certain felony convictions — Previously, only misdemeanors and summary offenses were eligible for sealing. Pursuant to the revision, some non-violent drug and property-related felonies can be shielded from public view. Felony convictions for criminal mischief and forgery can also be sealed.

  • Reduced waiting periods — The waiting period to petition for sealing a misdemeanor offense is reduced from 10 years to seven years. Summary offense records will now be sealed automatically after five years if the individual has no current criminal charges against them.  

The Pennsylvania State Police and the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts are responsible for implementing the automatic sealing of eligible records.

With a sealed criminal record, individuals may have better prospects for employment, as many employers conduct background checks as part of the hiring process. Likewise, housing providers often consider criminal history when evaluating rental applications. By taking advantage of the strengthened Clean Slate Law, more individuals can secure stable living arrangements for themselves and their families.

Moreover, the stigma of a criminal record can have far-reaching consequences, impacting various aspects of an individual's life, including relationships, education and community involvement. If you don’t want to be restricted by something that happened years ago, you should speak with an experienced Pennsylvania attorney who can advise on the eligibility criteria and waiting periods for sealing your criminal records. On the other hand, if you’re presently accused of breaking the law, you should hire a criminal defense lawyer who is aware of the latest legal developments and might be able to negotiate a reduced charge that can be sealed later on if you avoid further convictions. 

Don’t hesitate to speak with a knowledgeable Pennsylvania lawyer about your situation and legal options. Matthew R. Zatko, Attorney at Law in Somerset handles a wide range of legal matters for residents of Somerset, Indiana, Bedford and Cambria counties. To make an appointment, please call 814-443-1631 or contact me online