Within a year, more than 1 million low-level criminal cases in Lancaster County will be sealed from public view.
The automatic sealing process starts today under Pennsylvania’s new “Clean Slate Law,” which orders records of certain misdemeanor offenses to be hidden from employers and landlords.
Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman called it an overdue, crime-prevention measure because it promotes employment.
Under the law, Pennsylvania courts have a year from today to work through the backlog of cases.
In Lancaster County, that means about 131,000 cases will be processed per month, according to Jacquelyn Pfursich, clerk of courts.
“People’s needs to clear old misdemeanor convictions off their record is incredibly important and useful,” said Mark Walmer, a Lancaster attorney who specializes in record scrubbing.
Eligible cases under Clean Slate Law are ones that didn’t result in a conviction, summary convictions after 10 years and some misdemeanor convictions for those who’ve been law-abiding for 10 years.
The law went into effect at the end of December. At that point, individuals could petition to have eligible cases sealed before the scheduled June 28 automation process. Pfursich said few people have done so in Lancaster County.
Now the real work begins as her office has hundreds of thousands of cases to work through.
The office gets the data from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts and Pennsylvania State Police.
Court staff will then go through each case and stamp printed records and flag digital records with “limited seal,” Pfursich said.
The records will be accessible only by defendants, their attorneys, law enforcement and government officials.
“We have to stamp ‘limited access’ to alert staff that they need to see who it is coming in,” she said.
The order of cases processed each month will be completely random. They could be from the early 1900s or this year, Pfursich said.
Defendants won’t be notified when their cases are sealed, she said. The best way to check is by searching a name in the online court record portal: ujsportal.pacourts.us.