Following a long-awaited bill passed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul, New Yorkers’ criminal records will be automatically sealed when they serve out their terms and don’t get into trouble with the law for a predetermined period. New York is now part of several other states, including Michigan, New Jersey, and California, which have passed comparable laws in recent years. Many organizations, particularly advocacy and labor groups, view the years-long struggle to pass the Act as a significant success in the reform of the criminal justice system. So, what precisely does the Clean Slate Act mean for New Yorkers? Here’s what you need to know before you go outside to celebrate.
1. Clean Slate Doesn’t Erase Criminal Records
Expungement isn’t the point of Clean Slate; it only allows for records to be sealed after a certain time. This implies that it’ll still exist if you have a record, but access will only be granted under specific situations. Besides that, Clean Slate won’t seal the records of people who must register as sexual offenders or of those who have been found guilty of a crime for which a life sentence might be given.
It’s also important to note that Clean Slate doesn’t apply to probation in any way. Panhandle Defense Firm claims that if you accept probation instead of a six-month jail sentence, the judge will sentence you to a term longer than six months if you break the terms of your probation. The Act only applies to the sealing of records.
2. Not All Criminal Charges Qualify
While this Act has been welcomed by many people, some people have expressed their reservations. This is understandable. Think about it from the perspective of a parent. Imagine someone who was convicted for dealing or trafficking a harmful drug like fentanyl becoming a teacher or part of the faculty at your kid’s school. According to LA Valley Recovery, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that has 50 to 100 times more potency than morphine.
As a parent, even if you’d like to be the person who gives people second chances, that becomes a bit tricky when your kids are concerned. The good news is that such things were considered while the Act was created. Some crimes don’t qualify for sealing under the Clean Slate Act, which makes a lot of sense.
It excludes convictions for serious criminal charges like sex crimes, murder, and most class A felonies, which include drug trafficking. You’ll also be happy that Clean Slate doesn’t apply to childcare providers who undergo fingerprinting background checks. Clean Slate continues to grant access to otherwise sealed records for vital and relevant reasons, such as employment in organizations working with vulnerable groups like children and older people.
3. There Are Exceptions for Accessing Records
Employers are expressly forbidden by the New York State Human Rights Law’s Clean Slate Act from asking about sealed records or discriminating against candidates or workers based on sealed conviction records. However, there are certain exceptions to this general prohibition. The Act permits certain entities to have access and states that some specific situations may warrant the release of sealed records. These include law enforcement officials conducting investigations, courts, and prosecutors handling new criminal cases, organizations required by state or federal law to perform fingerprint-based background checks, and licensing officers handling applications for firearm licenses.
Approximately 40% of hurricanes that make landfall on the U.S. east coast each year affect Florida, according to Trip Savvy. However, when it comes to this legislation, it only applies to New York. The Clean Slate Legislation will change the trajectory of many people’s lives for the better.
So many New Yorkers will get the second chance they need to chart a new path for their future. Not everyone who has a charge under their name is a bad person. Sometimes, it’s a situation they’re going through that makes them commit a crime.