By Julie Zeglen
The state Senate voted unanimously yesterday in favor of a bill that would seal misdemeanor records after 10 years.
The legislation would only apply to those who avoided other convictions for at least 10 years. It’s a big win for criminal justice reform advocates like Sharon Dietrich, litigation director of Community Legal Services.
“Clean Slate, if it also passes the House, will take sealing of records to a new, much higher level,” Dietrich wrote in an email. “Many thousands of people who were eligible to have their records sealed or expunged would actually have it done, without lawyers, courts, or even knowledge about their opportunity to clear their records.”
The vote signals a step forward for those with low-level criminal convictions who have had difficulties finding meaningful employment because of their records. The legislation would also seal the records of those who have been arrested but faced no convictions.
A similar bill was introduced last spring but ultimately not brought to a vote, said CLS Communications Director Caitlin Brown.
Next, the bill must move through the House. If approved, Gov. Wolf must approve it — and he has said he will.
“So, the journey is only half over,” Dietrich said. Still, she’s hopeful, especially given the legislation’s bipartisan support thus far: The bill was co-sponsored by York’s Sen. Scott Wagner, a Republican, and Philly’s Sen. Anthony Williams, a Democrat.
“Hopefully, the broad agreement about Clean Slate in the Senate is a first step to other bipartisan criminal justice reform in PA,” Dietrich said.