State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

The State House Sound Bites Podcast is now called State of the State and is a part of PA Post, a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization to hold Pennsylvania’s government accountable to its citizens.

Bill would seal minor offenses after crime-free period

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Apr 13, 2016 1:58 PM

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is backing new proposals to give a person's low-level criminal offenses a limited shelf life in Pennsylvania.

Plans in the House and Senate would automatically seal low-level criminal records in Pennsylvania after a person has had no criminal activity for five to 10 years. The legislation builds on a plan enacted into law this year to let people with minor offenses ask a judge to seal their criminal records.

"This is taking it one step further," said Rep. Patty Kim (D-Dauphin). "I think Pennsylvania is finally realizing the barriers that people have. This is not an urban issue, a rural issue, or a suburban issue, this is a real person issue and it's really hindering people from moving forward."

Advocates say a criminal record can be a barrier in going to college, finding housing, or landing a job. Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) said having a low-level offense in your past shouldn't be a deal-breaker.

"I was handicapped as an executive at PepsiCo in terms of who I could hire even though I managed people who really just drove trucks," said Williams. "And as a state senator I've hired people with records and there's not been one person I've hired with a record that has not worked out to serve the commonwealth effectively."

Under this so-called "clean slate" bill, nonviolent misdemeanors would be automatically obscured from the public after the person is crime-free for 10 years, and summary offenses would be hidden after five years without criminal activity. Law enforcement officials would still have access to full criminal records.

Published in State House Sound Bites

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