Lawyers’ group endorses sealing of criminal records; Serino says ‘not now’

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ALBANY – The New York State Bar Association announced its support for legislation that would automatically seal criminal records for most New York residents.  A Hudson Valley senator is opposed to the plan and is calling for bail reform changes first.

The Clean Slate Act, sponsored in the Senate by Democratic Brooklyn Senator Zellnor Myrie and in the Assembly by Queens Democrat Catalina Cruz, would seal the records of New Yorkers convicted of misdemeanors and traffic offenses three years after the completion of community service or prison.  Convicted felons would have to wait seven years.  Convicted sex offenders would not be eligible to have their records sealed.

Sealed records would only be made available to the court and law enforcement agencies in limited circumstances such as when a person with a sealed record is a witness or defendant in a criminal or civil proceeding.

“It is devastating for those convicted of crimes to know that employers, landlords, and other members of the community have such easy access to their criminal records,” said Bar Association President T. Andrew Brown, of Rochester. “It is in no one’s best interest to keep so many fellow New Yorkers from leading full, productive lives once they have paid their debts to society. The current system — which has a disproportionate impact on people of color — must be reformed.”

State Senator Sue Serino (R-Hyde Park) doesn’t see it that way. “Our communities are still dealing with the public safety problems exasperated by the Supermajority’s’ bail reform. Now is not the time to be considering ‘Clean Slate’ that continues to put criminals ahead of law-abiding citizens,” she said. “While the proposal is well-intentioned, just like bail reform, its language is far too broad and could create safety issues for employers, landlords, and others. This is another example of how we need to bring stakeholders like law enforcement and victim’s advocates to the table to ensure lawmakers have a clear understanding of the impact this proposed legislation can have on the safety of New Yorkers.”