NY Legislature Passes Law to Seal Conviction Records, with Intent to Ease Hiring of Individuals with Criminal Convictions

In the final days of the 2023 legislative session, the New York Legislature passed the “Clean Slate Act.” If signed by Governor Hochul, it will provide for the automatic sealing of the records of certain convictions after specified periods of time.  The measure would not take effect, however, until one year after signing. It is intended to increase employment opportunities for those with past criminal histories who have had no recent convictions. 

After taking effect this bill would immediately seal the records of criminal convictions under state law as follows: (a) Misdemeanors would be sealed three years from the individual’s release, or the imposition of sentence if there was no sentence of incarceration and (b) Felonies would be sealed after 8 years from release. Not eligible for sealing would be Class A-I felonies, for which a maximum sentence of life imprisonment may be imposed (e.g., murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree arson, and first-degree illegal narcotics possession) and convictions requiring registration as a sex offender.

Sealing would be automatic except where the convicted individual has a criminal charge pending or is on probation or under parole supervision when the statutory time period for automatic sealing elapses.

The bill would amend the New York State Human Rights law1 to prohibit employers from making any inquiry regarding or discriminating against individuals based upon automatically sealed conviction records.  Records automatically sealed under this bill could still be accessed and used under these circumstances, such as when the record is necessary to any entity authorized to conduct a fingerprint-based background check on job applicants who would be working with children, the elderly or vulnerable adults.

Notably, the Clean Slate Act would only seal convictions under New York’s penal law.  The Act would not seal criminal convictions under federal law or the criminal law of any state other than New York. Again, this Act is not final and there has been a lot of back-and-forth with the Governor’s office about this bill.  We will continue to monitor the status of this law and advise employers if compliance is necessary.