New York Gov. Cuomo Signs Bill to Seal Criminal Records for Petty Offenses

Law Firm Newswire



New York, NY(Law Firm Newswire) December 6, 2020 – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on October 7 signed a law that will automatically seal the criminal records of individuals convicted of minor offenses such as a traffic infraction or low-level marijuana possession. The legislation is scheduled to take effect in 90 days.

The bill, A07584, will ensure that records will be sealed by default. They will be inaccessible to people, as well as private or public agencies unless a judge rules otherwise. The law covers petty offenses such as harassment, disorderly conduct and indecent exposure. However, loitering and operating a motor vehicle while impaired are excluded.

“This is a common sense bill that is a step toward a fairer criminal justice system in New York,” commented Peter Brill, a New York criminal defense attorney with Brill Legal Group. “There are a number of benefits to having prior criminal convictions sealed. Removing the stigma of a criminal record can have a huge positive impact on many areas of a person’s life, ranging from employment prospects to housing.”

Cuomo’s office said local law enforcement agencies for many years have been inconsistent with sealing conviction records. The new measure clarifies the objective of the original 1994 law that aimed to seal petty offenses.

The record-sealing was dictated by whether a person’s arrest carried a more serious charge. Authorities were failing to seal cases where the top charge was a violation or traffic infraction. 
As a result, low-level offenses that people thought were sealed, were in fact not sealed. The inconsistency meant that people charged with misdemeanors or felonies were sometimes treated more favorably than those charged with petty offenses.

Local law enforcement authorities pointed out that deciding which records to seal was not up to them. They simply followed court orders. Authorities also expressed concerns over whether repeat offenders who are arrested in different jurisdictions should be allowed to have their conviction records sealed.

Brooklyn Assemblyman Joe Lentol sponsored the bill, which passed with bipartisan approval. Lentol leads the Assembly committee that examines all criminal justice reform.

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