NY's "Clean Slate" Law: Automatically Seal Records for Second Chances

Dicle Belul
PrisonPhoto byHasan AlmasionUnsplash

New Yorkers who successfully complete their sentences and maintain a clean record for a specific period will now have their criminal records automatically sealed, thanks to a new bill signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul. This move aligns New York with several other states, including California, New Jersey, and Michigan, that have implemented similar legislation in recent years. The passage of this bill is considered a significant milestone in criminal justice reform by various organizations, including advocacy and labor groups.

Under the "clean slate" legislation, most criminal records will be sealed three years after completing a sentence or parole for a misdemeanor, and eight years for felony convictions. However, certain offenses such as sex crimes and Class A felonies will not be eligible for sealing. Gov. Hochul emphasized that individuals with criminal records have paid their debt to society and deserve a chance to reintegrate without unnecessary barriers to employment and housing.

Advocates argue that this legislation is crucial for the millions of New Yorkers who face obstacles in securing jobs, housing, and education despite completing their sentences. A study conducted by Santa Clara University revealed that less than 1% of eligible New Yorkers have successfully had their criminal records sealed under the existing statute. The new law will take effect in one year and will not apply to individuals with pending felony charges outside the state.

While the sealed convictions will be inaccessible to the general public, certain entities like law enforcement, courts, prosecutors, defense attorneys, gun licensing agencies, and employers working with vulnerable populations will still have access under specific circumstances. The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Acting Commissioner Daniel F. Martuscello III states that the law aims to eliminate barriers and provide individuals with a second chance.



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