What to Know About the New York Clean Slate Act

August 17, 2023

New York legislators recently approved the Clean Slate Act, which several other states have adopted over the years. This Act aims to improve job and housing opportunities for many residents with criminal records.

It would help these residents by addressing hurdles they face when job or house hunting. For example, the Clean Slate Act automatically seals eligible felony or misdemeanor convictions. However, these records must meet the following conditions:

  • Misdemeanors: Three or more years must pass since the individual’s release from incarceration or sentence imposition
  • Felonies: At least eight years must pass since the individual’s last release from incarceration.
  • The individual does not have a criminal charge pending; and
  • The individual does not require the supervision of any probation or parole department.

However, the Clean Slate Act imposes strict regulations for what convictions qualify for expungement. For example, it lists Class A felonies that may impose a maximum life imprisonment sentence as ineligible. The Act also rejects convictions that require individuals to register as sex offenders.

In addition, circumstances may allow specific inquiries into the sealed records. These include the following:

  • Courts and prosecutors involved in a new criminal case;
  • Law enforcement officers during the course of an investigation;
  • Entities required by state or federal law to conduct fingerprint-based background checks;
  • Entities authorized to perform background checks for jobs working with children, the elderly, or vulnerable adults; and
  • Licensing officers handling firearm license applications.

The Clean Slate Act would benefit employers and individuals with criminal records if New York successfully enacts it. For example, it would address how employers currently struggle to obtain sufficient qualified employees. Sealing these records would allow otherwise overlooked candidates an opportunity to fill those positions. It would also enable employers to increase their workforce’s diversity and inclusiveness. 

Employers should also consider hiring job applicants with records ineligible for automatic sealing. In many cases, these convictions may prove irrelevant to the job. Such consideration could improve the employer’s workforce. It would also allow the individuals to rebuild their lives and contribute to their communities.

Many expect the governor of New York to sign the Clean Slate Act. Regardless of whether this happens, employers should still consider participating in a second-chance hiring program. The best way to start is by partnering with a trustworthy background check company. The right partner will use their experience in second-chance hiring to ensure employers can make informed hiring decisions.

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