New York governor signs Clean Slate Act to automatically seal misdemeanors, some felony records

Hochul's office touted endorsements of the legislation from figures such as JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Microsoft Corporate Vice President Fred Humphries.

Published: November 20, 2023 11:25am

New York Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the Clean Slate Act into law, which will automatically seal misdemeanor convictions and some felonies after a set amount of time. 

The law, which will go into effect in a year, automatically seals all misdemeanor convictions after three years, with the clock resetting if the defendant is convicted of another misdemeanor before the three years is up. Additionally, felony convictions, with the exception of most class A felonies, are sealed eight years after conviction or release from prison. 

The class A felonies that will be sealed are those listed under Article 220 of New York law, which deals with controlled substance offenses ranging from possession to "operating as a major drug trafficker."

The clean slate will not apply to people who have been convicted of a sex offense or a violent sexual offense, the law states. 

Examples of felonies that the law appears to wipe clean include attempted second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, second-degree kidnapping, first-degree criminal use of a firearm and making a terroristic threat, among other things.

"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 at a ceremony signing the bill into law. 

Hochul's office also touted endorsements of the legislation from figures such as JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon, Microsoft Corporate Vice President Fred Humphries, U.S. Rep. Dan Goldman and New York Attorney General Letitia James. 

The New York State Assembly website contains a list of myths and facts about the Clean Slate Act. 

For example, one "myth" states: "Our children will be in danger because schools and daycares won't know if they are hiring people with criminal records."

The "myth" is countered with: "Fact: Childcare providers subject to fingerprinting background checks aren’t affected by Clean Slate. Clean Slate still provides access to otherwise sealed records for necessary and relevant purposes, including employment to people working with children, elderly people or vulnerable populations."

The Schoharie County Sheriff's Office and the Otsego County Sheriff's Office, both located in New York state, both condemned the act in Facebook posts. 

The Otsego law enforcement agency said the law is "another attack on public safety," while the Schoharie department said the legislation is "very concerning" and "worrisome" to all New Yorkers. 

The act comes as violent crime is on the rise in New York, having increased more than 10% from 2021 to 2022, per data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.

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