Pennsylvania's Clean Slate Law Needs To Do More To Help Its Citizens

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Mar 03, 2021 | 0 Comments

In 2018, Pennsylvania passed its Clean Slate legislation ("Clean Slate"). Under the law, legislators added first-degree misdemeanor offenses punishable by imprisonment of no more than 2 years and upgraded offenses carrying a penalty of up to five years in prison to the list of convictions eligible to be sealed by PA courts. The law also provided for the automated sealing of second-and third-degree misdemeanor offenses after a 10-year waiting period.

In 2020, PA legislators updated Clean Slate by amending the financial requirement. Before this amendment, a petitioner had to pay all court-mandated fines and penalties to be eligible for a sealing of their record. With the 2020 update, the legislature limited the financial obligation to the payment of court-ordered restitution.

Though lawmakers passed these Clean Slate bills intending to make it easier for citizens to clear their records, the law needs to go further to have the desired effect. To date, Clean Slate is still the 6th most restrictive expungement law in the country.

Limited Access to Expungement

One reason PA ranks among the most restrictive states when it comes to clearing criminal records is the limited availability of expungements. With an expungement, the court fully destroys your criminal record so that no one can see it, not even law enforcement or a judge. When the court seals your record, it is closed off from public view but not destroyed.

In Pennsylvania, expungements of convictions are generally only available in two common circumstances which would realistically allow a person to seek an expungement:

  • for convictions related to summary offenses (like retail theft, disorderly conduct, harassment, loitering, and so forth) after 5 years have passed and the person has remained arrest and prosecution-free, and
  • for petitioners who are 70-years-old or older and have remained arrest-free for 10 years since their convictions.

The other circumstances where an expungement can take place is when a person is deceased and the person's estate petitions the court for an expungement after the proscribed waiting period, or if the person was found not guilty or the criminal charges were dismissed for example. Everyone else has to find a different path to clearing their record in the state.

Long Waiting Periods

Another reason PA record relief laws are some of the most restrictive are the waiting periods. Citizens with criminal records must wait 10 years and be free of any convictions punishable by a term of imprisonment for 1 year or more during that time for their records to be sealed by the court. Petitioners convicted of low-level summary offenses like disorderly conduct and trespassing have to wait 5 years to be expungement eligible.

Consequences of Waiting Periods

A criminal record doesn't just stop you from getting a job. It can also block your access to professional licenses and certifications, student loans and grants, adopting a child, and housing. These consequences are most pronounced among minorities and the poor. Studies show they are at higher risk of experiencing adverse effects because of their record.

There are also consequences to the community. A recent report found that helping 100 formerly incarcerated individuals find jobs would add $1.9 million in taxable wage contributions and $800,000 in additional sales tax revenues over the employees' lifetimes. That means more revenue for community programs and benefits. Without shortening the expungement and record-sealing waiting periods, lawmakers are shutting off local government access to these funds.

Getting Help With Clearing Your Record

Although PA legislators have more work to do when it comes to expungements, there are pathways to clearing your record if you know where to look and have the strategies to get there. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience pursuing all avenues to clear his client's criminal records no matter their circumstances. If you are ready to clear your PA record, call the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-5336 today.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us Today!

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.