People with criminal convictions from decades past but who have turned their lives around might be able to jump past at least one employment hurdle.
The state House on Thursday approved legislation that would seal the records – offer a clean slate – of people who committed second- and third-degree misdemeanor offenses 10 years ago without any subsequent arrests, prosecutions or convictions.
The bill, House Bill 1419, now heads to the Senate for review before it can go to the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf. The Senate passed similar legislation last year.
“By sealing from public view minor criminal offenses, which are at least 10 years old, individuals can have a clean slate to move on with their lives,” the author of the bill, state Rep. Sheryl Delozier, (R-Cumberland) said in a statement, adding that the legislation also discourages recidivism, as well as requires restitution and court costs be paid for eligibility.
National studies show people who have not committed a crime within five years of their first offense are not likely to re-offend, she said. But a job applicant is often immediately disqualified if he or she has a criminal record, Delozier said, citing her talks with business chambers in the commonwealth.
H.B. 1419 builds on Act 5 of 2016, which allows for the sealing of records if a petition is filed by the person with the record. The new bill does not require a petition but would automatically seal records after 10 years, as long as the former offender does not get in trouble with the law again and pays all restitution.
“This will be helpful for business and individuals receiving a clean slate under the act,” David E. Black, president and CEO of Harrisburg Regional Chamber and Capital Region Economic Development Corp., said in a statement. “Available workforce is the number one challenge to businesses, a side consequence of a strong regional economy.”
The bill was approved by the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee in March. Its companion, Senate Bill 529, is sponsored by state Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York County) and was approved last June.
Delozier said that the legislation does not apply to violent offenses, sexual offenses, cruelty to animals and corruption of minors.