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More and more states across the country are continuing to implement what are known as “clean slate” laws in effort to eliminate barriers for individuals with criminal records. These laws seal or expunge criminal records once a certain time has elapsed. To learn how this could affect your hiring process in the near future, read on!

We provide background checks and drug screening for companies all over the country. We take pride in helping business owners and HR professionals to make smarter hiring decisions. This blog serves as a tool to help understand how that happens, and we aim to educate hiring professionals out there with a keen understanding of the current landscape of our industry. Today on the blog we wanted to talk about “clean slate” laws, what they are, and how they affect your hiring.

Why Are “Clean Slate” Laws Going Into Effect?

According to checkr.org, as many as 1 in 3 Americans have a criminal record. That’s roughly 70 million people. As the public has become more aware of this reality, many states have already begun proposing or passing laws that expand the types of criminal records that are eligible for automatic expungement.

Prior to clean slate laws, removing a criminal record wasn’t very easy. Individuals may not realize their records are eligible for expungement, or may lack the time or money to go through the process. In theory, an individual COULD get a “second chance,” but the gap between the moment a crime is expungeable and the moment it’s expunged is known as the “second chance gap. These new “clean slate” laws aim to fix that issue, providing automation and technology to automatically expunge when all conditions are met. No effort or expense is required by the individual. 

Clean Slate Laws Across State Lines

Back in 2014, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia (CLS) developed software that speeds up the expungement process by automatically generating expungement petitions. This led to further development and automating the entire record-clearing process. In 2018 Pennsylvania became the first state to pass a clean slate law. Once an individual goes 10 years with no convictions, the records of individuals with eligible offenses are automatically searched by computer and automatically sealed, with no need to petition.

Depending on what state you are in, clean slate law may vary. Some state clear felonies, whereas others only clear misdemeanors. In some states, records are sealed, in others, they’re expunged. What’s the difference?

What’s the Difference Between Sealed and Expunged?

In a nutshell, a sealed record still exists, whereas an expunged record is erased from a file as if it never existed. A sealed record can still be opened by a court order, based on that jurisdiction’s laws, but an expunged record simply doesn’t exist anymore.

Some states don’t have expungement laws, but allow for a set aside or vacating of the sentence. In this case the charge isn’t removed, but demonstrates evidence of fulfilling a probation or sentence obligations. 

It should be noted that Regardless of what state you’re in, a federal crime cannot be expunged or sealed.

So, What’s It Mean for Your Hiring Process?

This year is the first year that states with clean slate laws will begin to see (or not see) automatic records being expunged. Even in these states, background checks may still uncover records that will eventually be excluded. 

If you consider a potential hire’s criminal records when hiring, you could subject yourself to unintentional discrimination against certain employees. 

No matter what state you live in, it’s important to have an idea of how these trends emerge, because your state could be next on the list. Pennsylvania, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Utah all have some level of Clean Slate law in place, and more states are considering it.

When you partner with a company like ESS, you can trust that you’re up to speed with all the latest laws with regard to background screening. This helps to mitigate risk and provide trust that you can focus on narrowing down your candidate based on what matters most. While clean slate laws may provide benefits for individuals with criminal records, it doesn’t make it any easier on hiring professionals. If you have any questions regarding your current background check processes, don’t hesitate to reach out! We are more than willing to help answer your questions!