NEW YORK - Surrounded by elected officials and advocates for criminal justice reform at the Brooklyn Museum, Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Clean Slate Act into Law on Thursday.
"With the signing of this law, it adds to the momentum to get people back to work, give them those opportunities all of those people who have been convicted," Hochul said.
The law, which takes effect a year from now, will automatically seal most criminal records three years after serving time or parole for a misdemeanor and eight years for felony convictions. Sex crimes and most Class A felonies, such as murder, will not be eligible for sealing, and if a prior offender’s probation or parole is revoked, the clock resets.
"You only get this if you’ve turned your life around, but the good news is millions of people have," Hochul said.
The governor believes joblessness is a source contributing to the cycle of crime on our streets across the state.
The law seals the records so those re-entering society can pursue careers, and learn a trade absent worry that their records will hinder their progress.
New York’s Attorney General Leticia James expressed her full support of the law.
"It will help impacted individuals find stable homes and good paying jobs and quality education, particularly at a time in our economy when businesses say they can’t find employees," James shared.
New York State Senator Patricia Canzoneri Fitzpatrick opposes the new law.
"I think they are continuing to limit the judgment of judges who are elected, and I don’t think that there is a need to seal records. I think judges should have the ability to know what someone has done in the past so that they can come up with a plan that is appropriate for the person that is before them," said Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick.
Melinda Agnew is among the more than 2 million New Yorkers with conviction records who’ve had to ask themselves the hard questions.
"When you cannot move up the ladder at work, how are you supposed to support your family?" questioned Agnew.
"We disrupt this cycle with this law by sealing criminal records for specific crimes," Governor Hochul added.
Governor Hochul believes the new law could help fill more than 450 thousand open jobs state-wide though it doesn’t take effect until a year from now.
The law gives court administrators up to 3 years from the date to implement the processes that identify and seal records.