Gov. Kathy Hochul has signed into law a long-debated bill to automatically seal the criminal records of millions of New Yorkers a certain period after their release, she announced Thursday.
Known as the Clean Slate Act, the law will automatically seal criminal records for about 2.3 million New Yorkers three years after sentencing for a misdemeanor and eight years after a person is released from prison for a felony conviction. It does not apply to class A felonies or crimes that required a person to register as a sex offender.
A person's criminal records will be sealed after the required time if they are not on probation or parole, and have no other pending charges.
“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. And as our state faces a worker shortage, with more than 450,000 job openings right now, this new law will help businesses find more workers who will help them grow, expand and thrive."
The Clean Slate Act continues a years-long Democratic crusade in Albany of passing criminal justice reform. It passed both chambers of the state Legislature in June. It had routinely passed in the state Senate but would always stumble in the Assembly.
The legislation has seen long pushback from Republican lawmakers, who say it will impact public safety.
"Under this law, criminals convicted of some of the most violent offenses – including attempted murder, gang assault, arson, and animal abuse, just to name a few – will be eligible to have their records sealed," state Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt said in a statement. "As we see a dramatic rise in antisemitism, even hate crimes would be sealable. Meanwhile, there is no 'clean slate' for the victims and loved ones whose lives have been devastated. There should be no question in the minds of New Yorkers: Albany Democrats will always prioritize criminals over victims and law-abiding citizens."
“The District Attorney’s Association of the State of New York (DAASNY) has not urged Governor Kathy Hochul to veto the Clean Slate legislation that was signed into law today," the organization said in a statement. "DAASNY has not taken a position on this legislation. As with any new legislation related to criminal justice, DAASNY will review and discuss procedures and protocols on how District Attorneys’ offices will comply with the new law.”
The law makes New York the 11th U.S. state to pass legislation to automatically seal criminal records.