New York Gov. Signs “Clean Slate” Bill to Seal Most Criminal Records, Granting Millions Second Chance

New York has made a progressive change.

For residents who have completed their sentences and refrained from getting into legal trouble will have their criminal records automatically sealed under the state’s “Clean Slate” legislation signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday.

The long-awaited bill that took years to achieve now puts New York with California, New Jersey, and Michigan as states that have past bills that help former inmates, PBS reported.

It was pushed by various organizations, including labor and advocacy groups, the outlet reported, adding that the bill is the latest criminal justice bill endorsed by a Democratic Governor.

The bill will automatically seal most criminal records three years after an individual has served their time or parole for a misdemeanor and eight years for felony convictions. Murder, sex crimes and most Class A felonies will not be eligible for sealing. The bill excludes class A felonies for drug possession.

Notably, perpetrators will have to remain out of trouble for a certain amount of time, Fox News reported.

“They’ve paid their debt to society,” Hochul said about those with criminal records during the bill signing ceremony at the Brooklyn Museum. “They’ve gone through the process. They did their time. They’re done. But when they reenter society, there are still barriers to housing and jobs. I say no more. We’re here today to correct that injustice.”

Melinda Agnew with the Center for Community Alternative praised the legislation and shared her own personal challenges: “Twenty-six years after successfully completing my sentence, despite all that I have accomplished, I continue to have doors closed in my face,” said Agnew.

The law, which will go into effect in one year, but will still allow law enforcement officers, prosecutors, the Education Department, the courts and others to have access to individuals criminal records.

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