Pa. might seal minor-offense records after crime-free period

     Pennsylvania Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, D- Philadelphia (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo, file)

    Pennsylvania Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, D- Philadelphia (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo, file)

    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 an individual 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.”

    A criminal record can be a barrier in going to college, finding housing, or landing a job. Having a low-level offense in your past shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, said Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia.

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    “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 “clean slate” bill, nonviolent misdemeanors would be obscured from public view automatically after the individual 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.

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