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Pennsylvania Becomes First State To Automatically Seal Certain Criminal Records

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Pennsylvania began automatically sealing criminal records from over 30 million cases Friday under the Clean Slate law.

It's the first state in the country to enact automatic sealing.

The Clean Slate law means that if you committed a crime and you were arrested but never convicted, your record could be wiped clean. So when you interview with a prospective employer, you can say "I don't have a criminal record," because you don't -- it's gone from public view.

Edward Van Stevenson Jr., an attorney with Neighborhood Legal Services, calls this excellent news because it now gives people a chance to get their foot in the door. Often times if you have a record, that door is slammed in your face because that past crime stays with you.

Sanna Strong knows all too well.

"I was charged with retail theft, it was dropped -- I mean that's it," she says. "I work, and sometimes it comes up on my record, sometimes it doesn't."

Starting Friday, 30 million criminal cases in the state, like Strong's, will begin to be sealed -- and it will happen automatically. The process of sealing all eligble records is expected to take a year.

For decades, Stevenson has helped people get their records expunged after a waiting period. But the Clean Slate law will now seal those records. They'll still be visible to law enforcement, and will show up on FBI background checks used by schools, hospitals and casinos.

But the public can't view the records -- which is something new.

Before the law took effect, Stevenson explains, "if a person applies for a job, the employer can go online and look up one's criminal records and they can use that information -- for convictions, for misdemeanors and felonies -- to determine if they're going to hire them."

"But once records are expunged and sealed, they cannot go on this website to see anything, which means it cannot be used," the attorney says.

Who does this apply to?

Those with summary offenses, non-violent misdemeanors like a DUI or buying marijuana, or crimes they were arrested for and never convicted of -- and have not had other charges within ten years -- will have their records sealed automatically under the law.

For more details on who's eligible, click here.

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