Bipartisan legislation filed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday would automatically seal federal criminal records for marijuana convictions.
The legislation, titled the Clean Slate Act, would also create a new procedure allowing people to petition federal courts to seal records for other nonviolent offenses that aren’t automatically sealed under the bill, such as convictions involving other drugs.
“At the time of sentencing of a covered individual for a conviction pursuant to section 404 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 16 U.S.C. 844) or of any Federal nonviolent offense involving marijuana,” the bill text states, “the court shall enter an order that each record and portion thereof that relates to the offense shall be sealed automatically on the date that is one year after the covered individual fulfills each requirement of the sentence, except that such record shall not be sealed if the individual has been convicted of a subsequent criminal offense.”
The bill, which was introduced by Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), also seeks to create penalties for any official who improperly “accesses or discloses information contained in a sealed record.”
“If our goal is to reduce recidivism and improve the lives of millions of Americans, we cannot allow hardworking citizens who served their time to be defined by their worst mistakes in life,” Blunt Rochester said in a press release. “With an inerasable criminal record, they are locked out of the American Dream. It becomes harder to get a good-paying job, pursue education or training, and own a home. This creates a system that leaves many hopeless and trapped in a cycle of poverty, and it is time we broke that cycle.”
“In Pennsylvania alone, approximately three million individuals, or over a third of working age citizens, have criminal records. Although many of these are the result of low-level, nonviolent offenses, criminal records can present a significant obstacle to employment, housing, and education,” Reschenthaler added.
Highlighting how criminal justice reform is increasingly a bipartisan issue, both the Center for American Progress on the left as well as the American Conservative Union Foundation and the Koch-brothers-backed FreedomWorks have endorsed the new bill.
Politico reported that Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) plans to file companion legislation in the Senate and is actively seeking a GOP cosponsor.