McClinton, Nesbit call for passage of automatic expungement legislation

HARRISBURG, June 5 – State Reps. Joanna McClinton and Tedd Nesbit were joined by advocates, legal experts and fellow colleagues for a news conference to urge the General Assembly to pass their bipartisan legislation that would automatically expunge some people’s criminal record.

“There are women and men who have served their time for a minor offense, yet they are still being punished while no longer being incarcerated. Their criminal record is a blemish that is prohibiting them from obtaining employment, purchasing a home and walking into a brighter future for themselves and their families,” said McClinton, D-Phila./Delaware. “It’s time that we remove the unnecessary roadblocks so these people can move forward with their lives.”  

House Bill 440 would provide an opportunity to expunge a person’s record if they have been unconditionally pardoned or fully acquitted of all charges. The commonwealth would receive notice of a potential expungement and would have an opportunity to object and conduct a hearing.

“It’s plain and simple: individuals that are fully acquitted or pardoned of crimes should not have to be forced to carry the burdens and stigma that are associated with a criminal record,” said Nesbit, R-Mercer/Butler. “That’s what this bill seeks to do—improve our expungement laws and remove barriers to employment for the people of the commonwealth. I am excited to work with Representative McClinton and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on this important issue.”

Advocates said House Bill 440 would continue to move Pennsylvania forward in reforming its criminal justice system.

“Whenever we can make government more efficient, we should absolutely seize the opportunity to do so. Simply put, a pardon constitutes the commonwealth’s foremost act of forgiveness for those convicted of a crime in Pennsylvania. Therefore, the notion of expungement being a process that is wholly distinct from the pardon process is not only antiquated, it speaks to our government’s unwillingness to make the most efficient use of modern technology and taxpayer dollars,” said Brandon Flood, secretary, Pennsylvania Board of Pardons.

In March, the Board of Pardons helped to ease the application process for a pardon by unanimously voting to eliminate $63 in application fees that previously have been collected.

“Pennsylvania has become a national leader in providing second chances to those that have earned them through its first-in-the-nation Clean Slate law. House Bill 440 is the next step ready for the legislature to approve. By providing expungement for individuals that have been pardoned or have received a full acquittal, Pennsylvania can ensure that its criminal justice system is a little more just,” said Jenna Moll, deputy director, Justice Action Network. “The Justice Action Network commends Representatives Joanna McClinton and Tedd Nesbit for working across the aisle to introduce this legislation, and we are eager for the legislature to swiftly enact this commonsense bill.”

Americans for Prosperity state director Ashley Klingensmith said, “When Pennsylvania passed the Clean Slate law last year, our state became a leading example of how broad coalitions can work together to make it easier for returning citizens to get back on their feet and grow as contributing members of society. But Clean Slate was only the beginning. Even now, individuals who have been pardoned or fully acquitted – free of guilt according to the law – face needless barriers to employment, housing and higher education because of their past mistakes. This expungement bill would help fix that and empower more individuals to pursue lives of fulfillment.”

Joining McClinton and Nesbit also during today’s news conference were Sens. Sherif Street, D-Phila. and Camera Bartolotta, R-Beaver/Greene/Washington; Fran Chardo, Dauphin County district attorney, representing the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association; Brad Winnick, Dauphin County chief public defender and president of the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; and Celeste Trusty, Pennsylvania regional organizer, Families Against Mandatory Minimums.  

House Bill 440 is currently in the House Judiciary Committee.