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Pennsylvania “Clean Slate” Law Limiting Access to Certain Criminal History Records Takes Effect

July 16, 2019 | Kevin Coy

On June 28th, Pennsylvania’s “Clean Slate” law, Act 56 of 2018, took effect.  The Clean Slate law creates a framework for limiting access to certain criminal court records without the individual that is the subject of the record having to file a petition requesting to limit access. The Pennsylvania Administrative Office of the Courts estimates that 40 million offenses could be covered by the new law.  The new Clean Slate rules are in addition to, not a replacement for, existing Pennsylvania rules allowing individuals to petition to limit access to criminal history records.   The Clean Slate law also limits the ability of employers and others, with certain exceptions, to ask about offenses that have been expunged or to which access has been limited.  The Clean Slate law also provides limited immunity from liability for employers with respect misconduct by employees with expunged or limited access record offenses.

The Clean Slate law is intended to create a strong incentive for avoidance of recidivism by offenders and alleviate the hardships of having a criminal record for individuals that are trying to rehabilitate themselves, while also ensuring continued access to criminal history information by criminal justice agencies.

Under the new law, with certain exceptions, access to covered criminal records is to be automatically limited in the case of:

 

    • Offenses that are dispositions that are not convictions;
    • Summary convictions more than 10 years old for which all court-ordered financial obligations are complete; and
    • Convictions for either a second or third degree misdemeanor or an ungraded offense where the defendant has been free from any other felony or misdemeanor conviction for 10 years and completed the financial obligations of the sentence.

 

In cases where an individual has a record for which access is limited under the Clean Slate law, the individual may not be required or requested to disclose information about the record(s) for which access has been limited and may respond to questions as if the offense did not occur.  The law includes an exception to these self-disclosure limitations “if Federal law, including rules and regulations promulgated by a self-regulatory organization that has been created under Federal law, requires the consideration of an applicant’s criminal history for purposes of employment.”[1]

The Clean Slate law further provides that expunged records, as well records to which access has been limited by the Clean Slate law or a petition, “may not be considered a conviction that would prohibit the employment of a person under any law of this Commonwealth or under Federal laws that prohibit employment based on State convictions to the extent permitted by Federal law.”[2]

The Clean Slate law also includes a limited employer liability waiver:   “An employer who employs or otherwise engages an individual whose criminal history record has been expunged or [for which access has been limited] shall be immune from liability for any claim arising out of the misconduct of the individual, if the misconduct relates to the portion of the criminal history record that has been expunged or provided limited access.”[3]

The Clean Slate law also includes additional restrictions on the disclosure of juvenile records.

The Pennsylvania Courts have developed a process, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania State Police to implement the Clean Slate law on an ongoing basis, as well as scrubbing criminal records that pre-date the laws effective date.  The backlog of prior offenses for which access is now to be limited is to be completed by June 28, 2020.

 

[1]18 Penn. Con. Stat. Sec. 9122.5(a).

[2]18 Penn. Con. Stat. Sec. 9122.5(b).

[3] 18 Penn Con. Stat. Sec. 9122.6

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