Wolf signs law to seal certain Pa. criminal records

Philadelphia Senator Anthony Williams, Governor Tom Wolf, and Philadelphia Representative Jordan Harris pose for pictures after signing the Clean Slate bill. (Katie Meyer/WITF)

Philadelphia Senator Anthony Williams, Governor Tom Wolf, and Philadelphia Representative Jordan Harris pose for pictures after signing the Clean Slate bill. (Katie Meyer/WITF)

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has signed a bill to wipe clean criminal records for certain low-level offenders if they go a decade without any other convictions.

The “clean slate” measure has garnered bipartisan support. Notably, Wolf and his gubernatorial challenger Scott Wagner agreed on the measure while the Republican was in the state Senate.

Under the new law, those who serve a year or more in prison can petition courts to have their records sealed after 10 years, as long as they’ve made all their court-mandated payments. Second- or third-degree misdemeanors that require a shorter than a two-year prison sentence are also eligible for automatic record sealing.

If people with sealed records are asked about prior convictions, it will be as if the crime never happened, said state Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Philadelphia.

“If this person is applying for a job, their answer is no,” he said. “And our hope is that folks who have 10 years free from crime won’t commit any. Quite honestly, the statistics show that.”

Pennsylvania is the first state to pass such legislation.

But Wolf and other — primarily Democratic — lawmakers are also pushing for a slate of other overhauls to the criminal justice system that have less bipartisan support.

They include making bail, probation, and parole laws more consistent; allocating state funding for indigent defense; and a number of programs aimed at helping people stay out of jail.

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