New York Governor Signs Clean Slate Act Into Law

November 24, 2023

The governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, has signed the Clean Slate Act into law. This law will take effect on November 16, 2024. It would make it easier for individuals to expunge eligible criminal records, improving their ability to reintegrate into society.

Legislators expect the Clean Slate Act to improve opportunities for those with criminal records while ensuring public safety. It would also reduce the barriers that they face. This Act would significantly help people of color who are disproportionately affected by the criminal justice system. Once it takes effect, it will automatically seal some criminal records. However, this process applies only to those who have not committed new crimes after completing their incarceration or sentence.

How the Act Works

The Clean Slate Act will automatically seal the records of people who have eligible misdemeanor convictions. However, three years must pass since their release to qualify for automatic expungement. Those with felony convictions must wait eight years after their release. In both cases, the individual cannot commit new crimes during the waiting period.

People convicted of murder, sex crimes, and any other serious crimes will not qualify to have their criminal record automatically expunged. The new Clean Slate Act also prevents employers from asking about or considering the sealed records. This ban ensures employers do not discriminate against the employee or applicant because of the expunged information. 

Once expunged, the records will no longer appear in public court indexes. As such, they will not be available to most employers. However, the Clean Slate Act includes exceptions for specific circumstances. Examples include investigations conducted by law enforcement, prosecutors requiring access, or courts pulling the records for new criminal cases. Licensing officers processing applications for firearms may also access expunged records. Finally, the Act offers exceptions when federal or state laws require fingerprint-based background checks.

The Act’s Importance

The governor stressed that the legislation intends to increase public safety and improve economic growth. She also said a good-paying job is the best way to fight crime. As such, she supports giving people a clean slate once they have paid their debt to society and not re-offended for years.

People with criminal records may see immediate results once the Clean Slate Act takes effect in 2024. For example, they may benefit from greater employment and housing opportunities shortly after November 16, 2024. This law will also help employers as the labor pool for applicants increases. Employers should consider working with a trustworthy background screening company in preparation for the Clean Slate Act. The right provider will ensure they view only information the regulations allow them to review.

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