Across the country, more states are starting to consider and introduce expungement laws. Currently, New York has one of the most restrictive expungement and record sealing laws in the country. However, many in New York have been working to get a bill passed that would help former offenders move past their conviction.
Lippman Introduces New York Expungement Law
Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman is introducing an expungement bill that is greatly needed in New York. Judge Lippman gave his annual address last month and in his speech he indicated that he would begin sealing records of misdemeanors next month, in order to assist these individuals find work and housing. He said he would be submitting a bill to the Legislature that would expunge a misdemeanor conviction after satisfying a seven-year waiting period and would allow judges to expunge a nonviolent felony conviction after ten years. The bill would have exceptions for sex offenses, public corruption and drunken driving.
A Separate Policy to Benefit Former Offenders
In addition to the proposed legislation that he will be submitting, there is also a new policy being implemented by the court system that will benefit former offenders. This new policy affects the sale of criminal history information. For years, the Office of Court Administration (OCA) has performed electronic searches of it criminal cases database to determine whether individuals have a record. Background check companies inquiring about job applicants often request the searches, but others can also request them. Beginning on April 1, the OCA will no longer disclose misdemeanor convictions of individuals who have no other previous convictions and who have not been arrested again within the 10 years of the date of the conviction.
Under current New York law, only a very limited number of cases are eligible to be sealed. For those not eligible for a record sealing, the other option is to apply for a Certificate of Good Conduct or a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities; neither of those certificates remove the case from a former offender’s criminal record, but they can help individuals by adding a positive note to the official record indicating the court has deemed them rehabilitated.
New York has been looking to improve their expungement law in recent years, such as with the introduction of Bills S5385 and A4026 last year, but there has not been much advancement with those bills. Many hope that with Judge Lippman’s support, some progress will be made this year.
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