Clean Slate


Last year Pennsylvania's General Assembly was the first state in the U.S. to pass a clean slate law.  Governor Wolf signed the bill into law on June 28, 2018.  The law created an automated process to seal certain criminal and non-conviction records.  It also expanded the number of misdemeanor convictions that can be sealed once the court has been petitioned. This law should help individuals when applying for a job or renting an apartment: "Sealed records are not available to the public, helping people access employment, housing and education. Clean Slate will allow hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians to move past their old, minor criminal records." (

With Clean Slate, arrest records will be sealed if charges are dismissed. Summary offenses will be sealed after 10 years have elapsed. A criminal record related to a misdemeanor of the second degree, a misdemeanor of the third degree or a misdemeanor offense punishable by imprisonment of no more than two years will be sealed if a person has been free for 10 years from conviction.  In all cases involving summary offenses and misdemeanors, completion of court-ordered financial obligations of the sentence must have occurred.

There are individuals convicted of crimes who are not eligible for Clean Slate. Crimes involving danger to persons, crimes against families and firearms offenses are examples of crimes that make a person ineligible. 

This law does not expunge a criminal record, since it does still allow law enforcement and judicial officers access to this information. It does, however, limit who may view the information and restricts public viewing. The automatic sealing provision of the law went into effect just a few weeks ago, and the courts will be working for the next year to process the backlog of cases affected.

How can you know if the law applies to you or if you have any other options?  Checkout the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania's page on the Clean Slate law. It explains the differences between Clean Slate, Act 5 Limited Access (when the court is petitioned to seal records), expungement, juvenile expungement and pardons. If you need help, go to  "My Clean Slate" is a program put together by Community Legal Services in partnership with the Pennsylvania Bar Association. Community Legal Services had a major role in advocating for the Clean Slate law and has been working for years to help those with criminal records be treated fairly in regards to employment opportunities and housing. "My Clean Slate" provides information and, after signing up, offers a comprehensive guide on how to view your record and get ready for sealing.

More from the blog

Earlier this summer, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued a standing order regarding the possession and use of electronic devices in the courthouse . This order specifically addresses the use of cameras and other recording devices, including cell phones,...
If you’ve been seeing PACER in the news a lot lately (see this NYT Editorial , ABA Journal article , or The New Republic article for starters) and you’re wondering what all the buzz is about, read on for a summary of current events surrounding the federal courts’ electronic docketing system,...
Check out the video series the Pennsylvania Courts released on the new Appellate and Trial Court Case Records Policy . These videos help attorneys and other interested parties understand how to file confidential documents, how to protect confidential information such as social security numbers, and...