By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Pennsylvania lawmakers will introduce a first-of-its-kind bill Wednesday that would automatically seal certain criminal records after a period of time.
The Clean Slate bill will automatically seal certain criminal records of individuals who have remained free of crime for a period of time.
The bill will be introduced in both the House and the Senate with support from both sides of the aisle, including Senator Scott Wagner (R-28th), Senator Anthony Williams (D-8th), Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R-88th) and Rep. Jordan Harris (D-186th).
“Bi-partisan support is the most exciting thing about this,” says Sharon Deitrich, litigation director at Community Legal Services.
Her organization is one of the groups supporting the new legislation. She says it would automatically seal non-violent misdemeanor convictions after 10 years, summary convictions after five years, juvenile adjudications after seven years, and charges that fail to result in conviction after 60 days.
“Sealing” is a new record for expungement first introduced in the Commonwealth earlier this year with the passage of Act 5.
“People with old records, minor records are burdened by these records for life,” Deitrich says, “sealing the records means the information is still there for law enforcement, but your employer, your landlord will not have access to the information.”
Deitrich says it will likely mean less discrimination for those with criminal records, which means better access to jobs, housing and educations services. In addition, there will no longer be a need to pay for expungement.
“People will not need to get a lawyer to get their records sealed,” she says, “There’s nothing better that we can do for somebody than to go from a record to no record because that obstacle that was preventing them from getting a job is no longer there.”
Roughly one in three Americans are said to have a criminal record. This Clean Slates bills are expected to provide relief for roughly 30% of those with a criminal past.