NY Gov. Signs Bill To Seal Certain Criminal Records

By Patrick Hoff | November 16, 2023, 6:59 PM EST ·

New Yorkers convicted of certain crimes will have their conviction records automatically sealed after a set number of years, with New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday signing a bill aimed at curbing discrimination against formerly incarcerated people and boosting employment.

The Clean Slate Act, passed by the state legislature in June, will allow eligible misdemeanor convictions to be sealed three years after a person has completed their sentence and certain felony convictions to be sealed after eight years. The law will take effect one year from the date it was signed, replacing New York's previous system that required people to petition the state to seal their conviction record.

The law will not seal the records of people convicted of sex crimes, murder or other nondrug Class A felonies, and law enforcement, prosecutors, courts and the New York State Education Department will still have access to all criminal records under the Clean Slate Act.

Additionally, a person's record will not be sealed if they have a pending criminal charge or subsequent criminal conviction in New York or another jurisdiction, unless the felony charge is related to reproductive health care, gender-affirming care or the possession of cannabis and wouldn't be a felony in the Empire State.

Hochul said during remarks at a signing ceremony Thursday that New York has over 450,000 vacant jobs right now and needs to do everything it can to find workers to fill those positions, but the state has lagged behind others in allowing people with criminal records to get jobs.

"The best crime-fighting tool is a good-paying job. That's why I support giving New Yorkers a clean slate after they've paid their debt to society and gone years without an additional offense," Hochul said. "I negotiated a compromise that protects public safety and boosts economic opportunity, and the final Clean Slate Law will help New Yorkers access jobs and housing while allowing police, prosecutors and school officials to protect their communities."

A 2022 study by the Brennan Center for Justice showed that a misdemeanor can reduce a person's annual earnings by 15%, while time in prison can slash yearly pay by around 50%, resulting in an average lifetime loss of $500,000.

According to the governor's office, New York is the 12th state to sign this type of legislation, following in the footsteps of states such as New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Utah, South Dakota and Oklahoma.

Assembly member Catalina Cruz, D-Queens, who sponsored the bill, said in a statement the Clean Slate Act is a step "to building a more inclusive and just economy, where everyone has the opportunity to contribute and thrive regardless of their past."

"Millions of New Yorkers have been burdened by the crippling weight of their past convictions," Cruz said. "By providing qualifying individuals with a clean slate, we are unlocking doors to dignified employment, education and housing."

Opponents of the bill have raised concerns that employers and landlords will no longer have the tools they need to protect businesses and communities, undermining public safety efforts.

New York state Sen. Thomas O'Mara, R-Elmira, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, was joined by every Republican senator and four Democrats in opposing the Clean Slate Act in the state Senate. In the Assembly, 18 Democrats joined every Republican in voting against the bill.

O'Mara said in a statement the signing of the Clean Slate Act proves "that Democrats care more about protecting violent felons and dangerous individuals than they do victims and law-abiding New Yorkers."

--Editing by Leah Bennett.

Hello! I'm Law360's automated support bot.

How can I help you today?

For example, you can type:
  • I forgot my password
  • I took a free trial but didn't get a verification email
  • How do I sign up for a newsletter?
Ask a question!