ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10/WUTR/WFXV/WPNY)—In Brooklyn, Governor Kathy Hochul signed Clean Slate, which will seal criminal records for those convicted of a misdemeanor or some felonies, years after they’ve served their sentence.
For someone who committed a misdemeanor, their record won’t be sealed until three years after their conviction or release from jail. They must no longer be on probation or parole, and during that time, must have stayed out of legal trouble.
For a person who commits a felony, same rules apply, however their waiting period is eight years after being released from prison.
“We’re not sealing records for sex crimes or most Class A felonies,” explained Hochul. “Employers and the public have a right to know about the sex offenders and the worst violent criminals before they give them a job.”
Criminal records have prevented people from getting jobs and housing. Under the law, these records will be sealed from employers and landlords, but not for those who need to access them.
“Law enforcement will always have access to these conviction records,” said Hochul. “I’ve had law enforcement tell me they didn’t think that was the case. I said no, that’s exactly the case, whether they’re carrying out an investigation, and issuing an order of protection to protect someone, or vetting someone to work in jobs dealing with children or elderly places where a background check is required.”
Eleven other states have already passed similar laws. The Business Council supports the legislation saying it’s beneficial for the economy.
“For New York State alone over 400,000 jobs can potentially be filled,” said Crystal Griffith, The Business Council’s Director of Workforce Development
However, Republicans are against Clean Slate, including State Senators Joe Griffo (R/C– Rome) and Peter Oberacker (R/C — Schenevus).
“Protecting the public is one of the most important responsibilities of government, however, here in New York the criminals continue to have the upper hand thanks to measures like Clean Slate,” Oberacker said in a statement. “I am supportive of giving individuals a second chance, but I am not okay with hiding serious crimes like manslaughter, gang assault, and armed robbery – to name a few. This law, like bail reform, is another blow to public safety in our communities. I join with my Republican colleagues, law enforcement officials, and victims’ rights advocates who continue to push back against these dangerous policies.”
“We have heard repeatedly from law enforcement, local governments, businesses and residents that pro-criminal policies like the ‘Clean Slate Act,’ which I did not support, are causing more challenges and problems,” Griffo said in a statement. “New Yorkers are more concerned with not becoming a crime statistic themselves than the stats being used by politicians to justify policies. They are fleeing the state because they do not feel safe here.”
Assemblyman Robert Smullen (R/C — Mohawk Valley and the Adirondacks) also voiced his opinion against the Clean Slate Law.
“Signing a bill into law that prioritizes criminals over crime victims and their families is deeply disturbing—offering a fresh start to those who have made mistakes in the past is one thing, however, second chances should not come at the expense of innocent New Yorkers’ safety,” Smullen said in a statement. “It seems counterintuitive Albany Democrats are fixated on strengthening background checks when people purchase new firearms, yet now they have supported a bill that will unilaterally seal criminal records for most misdemeanors and felonies, keeping landlords, roommates and employers from seeing them. The lack of consistency and lack of respect for public safety in our state is glaring. The Clean Slate Act should never have been signed.”
The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York is not commenting on Clean Slate at this time.
The law will go into effect in one year.
“While I understand the intent behind this law and the push for rehabilitation of our incarcerated individuals, I cannot let public safety fall second in these matters,” Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon said in a statement. “I will continue to work with my colleagues to enhance the safety of our communities and ensure that community safety will always be my priority.”