New York Passes Automatic Criminal Record Expungement ‘Clean Slate’ Law
New York State has new Clean Slate legislation in the works. The new act aims to streamline the process of sealing criminal records for eligible individuals, granting them a fresh start. Read more from HireRight Associate General Counsel, Alonzo Martinez.
The New York State House and Assembly have passed A1029C, the New York Clean Slate Act, sending the measure to Governor Kathy Hochul for signature. The legislation aims to streamline the process of sealing criminal records for eligible individuals, granting them a fresh start and a chance to rebuild their lives. While the Act primarily focuses on the rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-offenders, it also has important implications for businesses that play a vital role in providing opportunities for individuals seeking employment.
Existing legislation in New York permits criminal records to be sealed through the judicial review process. Ex-offenders with either one felony and one misdemeanor or two misdemeanors may petition to have those convictions sealed after a decade if they do not re-offend. Exclusions exist for sex crimes, murder, manslaughter, arson, kidnapping, criminal weapons possession, and other dangerous crimes.
Sheena Meade, CEO of The Clean Slate Initiative, a national bipartisan organization that supported the New York effort, said in a statement, “We applaud New York lawmakers for reaching an agreement and supporting this common-sense policy. Over 2.3 million people have a record in New York, but only .2% of eligible people have cleared their records under the current system. This Clean Slate bill will automatically clear records for anyone who is eligible, helping more New Yorkers gain a second chance at a better future. “
A1029C automatically seals eligible cases, eliminating the criminal ex-offender’s need to apply for expungement or court proceedings. Misdemeanor offenses are automatically sealed three years after the term of the sentence. Eligible felony convictions are sealed eight years after the duration of the sentence. Class A felonies and convictions requiring registration as a sex offender are ineligible for automatic sealing. Once sealed, the records are unavailable to most employers and landlords. Law enforcement, courts, and prosecutors retain access to records. State agencies that require fingerprint-based background checks for employment may continue to access criminal records that are otherwise sealed.
New York State Legislature Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins said in a statement, “Clean Slate offers a genuine second chance to individuals who have fully paid their debt to society, enabling them to restart their lives and become positive contributors to their communities. By passing Clean Slate, we affirm our belief in redemption and improve our society by providing formerly incarcerated individuals a better opportunity to enter the workforce and establish stable lives. My appreciation goes to Senator Zellnor Myrie for championing this bill in the Senate, and to the New York State Legislature for their support in passing this vital legislation that will empower thousands of New Yorkers to forge a better future.”
If signed into law by the Governor, the New York Clean Slate Act will become effective one year later. Implementing the New York Clean Slate Act will bring forth a new era of opportunities for individuals with criminal histories who seek to reintegrate into the workforce. Employers now face the responsibility of reevaluating their hiring practices, updating background screening policies, and recognizing the potential talent and dedication that may be hidden behind a sealed criminal record.
Release Date: July 6, 2023
Alonzo Martinez is Associate General Counsel at HireRight. Mr. Martinez is responsible for monitoring and advising on key legislative and regulatory developments globally affecting HireRight’s service delivery. His work is focused on ensuring HireRight’s performance as a consumer reporting agency and data processor complies with relevant legal, regulatory, and data furnisher requirements. Mr. Martinez obtained his Juris Doctorate from the University of Colorado, and is licensed by the Supreme Court of the State of Colorado. He is a member of the Colorado Bar Association Employment Law Division, the Association of Corporate Counsel, and the Professional Background Screening Association.