New York passes law to let some seal their criminal records

New York has passed a new law allowing those with criminal convictions to have their records sealed.

A criminal record can be a heavy burden, making it difficult to find a job, get a home, and reenter society. Convicted offenders who have completed their sentences often feel as though their punishment unfairly continues even after they have left prison behind because of the obstacles a criminal record creates. As InformNNY reports, those obstacles are why New York lawmakers recently passed a law that will allow individuals convicted of certain criminal offenses to have their records sealed. The new law goes into effect this fall and is expected to impact tens of thousands of New Yorkers.

Sealing a criminal record

The law, which was passed as part of the state's recent budget, would permit individuals to apply to have up to two of their most recent convictions sealed. The convictions must be at least ten years old to qualify. By sealing those convictions, the offenses would no longer be visible in public records searches. That means that those convictions could not be used against a person who is applying for a job, a lease on an apartment, or in other situations where background checks are run. Police, however, would still be able to see the convictions on any criminal background check.

The idea behind the change is to make it easier for those who have a criminal record to reintegrate into society. A criminal record can mean individuals end up paying for mistakes they made in their youth for decades after the event. Studies have also shown that convicted offenders are more likely to reoffend if they are unable to find steady employment after they have completed their sentence.

How to seal a record

The new law will go into effect in the fall of 2017. As New York Upstate reports, to be eligible individuals must wait at least ten years after they have been released from prison before they can apply to have their convictions sealed and during that ten-year period they cannot have been convicted of another offense. The law also allows only one felony conviction to be sealed and up to two misdemeanor convictions. Finally, not all offenses are eligible, with those convicted of terrorism, sex offenses, violent crimes, major drug crimes, and other serious offenses being unable to apply to have their records sealed.

Applying to have one's record sealed is no guarantee that the record actually will be sealed. First, eligible individuals must fill out an application in the jurisdiction where they were convicted. Both the district attorney and the victims of the crime (if there are any) will be able to express their opinion about the application. Finally, a judge will decide whether or not to seal the applicant's record.

Legal help

While it is good news that those who have been convicted of a crime now have a chance to have their records sealed, the application process is complicated and an attorney should be consulted. Furthermore, anybody who finds themselves charged with a criminal offense should also contact a defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can help clients navigate the justice system and advise them on which choices are most likely to better protect their best interests.

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