BOL Seal

White Plains, NY —  The Board of Legislators has thrown its support behind New York State's proposed "Clean Slate" legislation. 

The proposal pending in Albany would automatically seal criminal records from civil review in certain cases for people who have completed their sentences and probation, and have maintained a clean record for some years thereafter. It is intended to help people get back on their feet after serving their time, and to reduce recidivism. Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Utah, Michigan, and Delaware already have similar laws on the books.

By a vote of 15-2 the Board adopted a resolution supporting the state proposal at its meeting Monday, February 7.

Chairwoman Catherine Borgia (D-Briarcliff Manor, Cortlandt, Croton, Ossining, Peekskill) said, "We say in America that we believe in rehabilitative justice, and this proposal helps put that into practice. It doesn't expunge criminal records -- if someone is arrested again, these records will still be available to police and prosecutors and courts. This legislation gives people who have served their time and maintained a clean record a better chance to find work, to find quality housing, and to put their lives on track.  We know that creating these opportunities reduces crime and increases social stability in the long run, not just for individuals but for families and generations. This is a community safety measure. It is an economic measure. It is a social justice measure."

Majority Leader Christopher Johnson (D-Yonkers) said, "A version of this already exists in New York State law. Currently 600,000 New Yorkers are eligible to go through channels have their records sealed. But the process is cumbersome and little known, less than one percent of those who are eligible have put the process to use for them. This legislation gives all eligible individuals an opportunity at a fresh start, which is especially important for black and brown people who we know are disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system. It's also important to note that there are exemptions in this law, such as the exemption for sex offenses. This law says that when someone has served their time, when someone has done what society has asked of them as punishment, and when that person has continued to live a clean life -- for three years in the case of misdemeanors and seven years in the case of felonies -- we, as a society, believe they should be able to look for work, or a place to live without the burden of something they have already paid for."

Vice Chair Nancy Barr (D-Harrison, Port Chester, Rye Brook) said, "When someone, particularly a young person, is convicted of a crime, serves their sentence, and is released from prison back into society to start over, what do they do?  If they can’t go to school or find a job or get an apartment because of their past criminal record, they are more likely to return to crime as a means to support themselves. So, even if you don't believe people deserve a second chance, if you are concerned about public safety this is a law that makes sense."

Majority Whip Jose Alvarado (D- Yonkers) said, "Providing a path to a better future for people who have paid their debt to society and who lived for years as productive, law-abiding citizens is an important step that this law would provide, and I strongly support it. But we must also make sure that we are providing resources like training and social support that will help people who have paid the cost for their actions, thrive in the future. That will make us all safer and more secure and make this law truly effective in giving people a fresh start."

Under the current proposal pending in Albany, criminal records would automatically be sealed for most civil purposes when a person has completed their sentence and probation and kept a clean record for three years in the case of misdemeanors and seven years in the case of felonies. Several exemptions exist in the current proposal including for sex offenses and in cases where entities are required under other laws to conduct fingerprint background checks and with respect to the licensing of firearms.