Seeking a “Clean Slate?” The Help of a Criminal Defense Attorney Makes a Difference

In the past, you made some mistakes and got in trouble with the law. Now, things are different and you want to have your criminal record sealed. Thanks to Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate Law, which passed in June 2018 and went into effect in December 2018, wiping away the deeds of the past may be possible depending on your conviction and if it was committed within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate Law is the first of its kind in the U.S. The law was created to prevent past convictions or arrests committed earlier in life that can affect a person’s opportunities for education, employment, housing or other aspects of life.

The Clean Slate Law allows people with minor, non-violent and non-sexual criminal offenses to petition to seal their records. This law increases criminal record sealing to include more types of offenses, including some first-degree misdemeanors and simple assault convictions. It also creates an automated computer process to seal, “…records for second or third-degree misdemeanor offenses that included a less than two-year prison sentence if a person has been free from convictions for 10 years, as well as sealing of criminal history records related to charges that resulted in non-convictions,” according to the Pennsylvania Bar Institute website. The automated sealing process is scheduled to begin in June 2019.

The range and reliability of the automated process has yet to be seen, so to ensure your records are sealed, it is advised to submit a petition.

To petition for your record to be sealed, your case must be eligible and filed with the county court where your criminal case was handled. Each court has different processes and different fees. This is where the process may become challenging.

Determining eligibility rules and appropriate court processes for your case is complicated, but a good criminal defense lawyer like George Lepley at Lepley, Engelman, Yaw & Wilk will be able to verify if your case can be sealed, and guide you in applying for the process. Your lawyer will also be able to research what is on your record, if you owe any court fines or costs, what state and court fees may be, and help with the next steps.

When it is clear that your case can be sealed, your lawyer will be a valuable guide in drafting and submitting the petition. After the petition is filed, the district attorney’s office will be notified and given 10 days to object to the request to seal your case. If there is no objection, the sealing will be granted without a hearing. However, if an objection is filed, then a court hearing will be scheduled and a lawyer familiar with the process and your case will be a great asset.

Once records have been sealed, the general public, landlords, licensing boards and most employers will not be able to see them. In limited situations, your sealed record may be seen by law enforcement agencies, state professional licensing agencies, FBI criminal background checks, other court cases and gun ownership applications. Fewer people will be able to pull up information about your conviction if your case is officially expunged, but sealed records provide a very good level of protection and privacy.

If you would like to pursue expungement, it is a separate and longer petitioning process than the Clean Slate Law, but it does more thoroughly hide convictions.

Discuss your options with criminal defense lawyers at Lepley, Engelman, Yaw & Wilk to learn if we can help you obtain better opportunities for education, housing, employment and professional advancement through the Clean Slate Law or expunction of your criminal record. Call us today at (800) 422-5396 or click here for other ways to reach us.

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