In 2019, Pennsylvania became the first state in the country to pass a Clean Slate Law, automatically sealing certain criminal records via technology. Since then, some 43 million criminal cases in Pennsylvania have disappeared from public view, including 23 million that resulted in convictions and 20 million that did not.
However, an investigation is revealing that records of even serious offenses, including murder, aggravated assault, and sexual assault of minors are also being at least partially wiped clean. In fact, it has been reported that in Franklin County, 80% of all criminal cases, including rape and murder cases, were removed from public view.
Melissa Melewsky, an attorney for the Pennsylvania News Media Association stated, “The Clean Slate Law is very clear. Convicted felons should not be receiving the benefits of a Clean Slate order, but it’s happening. I’ve seen cases where entire murder cases are sealed because a lesser included charge of assault was [dropped] even though there’s a murder conviction.”
“The public should care because this is our way of guaranteeing the system works as it should. Every time you take a piece of that access away it can chip away at public confidence in the judicial system itself,” Melewsky said.
Good intentions aside, these are some the very real, very detrimental, effects of automatically sealing criminal records. And once again, employers would have no way of knowing if the person they are about to hire has a serious criminal record.
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