Privacy Law

Millions of minor criminal cases in this state will be automatically wiped from public databases

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An automated computer process will begin sealing millions of criminal records from public databases Friday as a result of Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate law.

The law is the first in the nation to automatically seal some criminal records using technology, report the Morning Call, the CLS Blog and a joint story by WHYY and the PennLive. The law applies to less serious, nonviolent crimes.

An estimated 30 million cases are eligible for automatic sealing, according to the Morning Call and the CLS Blog. WHYY and PennLive say the number is 40 million. About 2.5 million cases will be sealed each month until the process is complete.

The Clean Slate bill was signed into law a year ago with the aim of helping low-level offenders get jobs, housing, college admission and loans.

People whose charges were dropped are eligible for automatic sealing after 60 days, according to WHYY and PennLive. People with low-level convictions are eligible if they avoid additional convictions for 10 years and complete court-ordered obligations.

People who satisfy the 10-year requirement can have records sealed for summary convictions, which are the most minor kinds of offenses in Pennsylvania; and a second- or third-degree misdemeanor punishable by two years or less in prison.

People convicted of first-degree misdemeanors don’t qualify for automatic sealing, but they can still ask a judge to seal their records, provided they remain free of convictions for 10 years.

The sealed records won’t be destroyed, and police and judicial officers will still be able to see them.

In addition, some cases won’t be sealed if vital information is missing from the database, the CLS Blog reports. In such cases, people should seek legal help.

See also: “How to help people with criminal records break barriers to employment” “Civil rights commission calls to end ‘invisible’ punishments for those with criminal convictions”

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