NY Governor and NY State Legislature aim to help ex-convicts get jobs
By Judge Adrian Armstrong
Most people are not aware of the new law that became effective October 7,
2017 (New York Criminal Procedure Law § 160.59) which now authorizes state courts
to seal nonviolent criminal convictions. The initiative is intended to make it easier for
individuals who have stayed out of trouble to apply for work, without the stigma of a
This new state law will allow thousands of New Yorkers to seal records of old
criminal convictions. The law will let New Yorkers apply to seal up to two convictions,
including one felony, for crimes other than sex offenses and violent felonies, starting 10
years after their sentencing date or release from prison. District Attorneys will have 45
days to object to the application. If the district attorney opposes the sealing application,
a hearing must be scheduled. At the hearing, the applicant and the district attorney
may offer evidence and call witnesses to offer testimony. The court must decide the
application after considering the evidence offered by both parties at the hearing and
issue an order either granting or denying CPL 160.59 sealing.
Sealed records won’t be visible to most employers or landlords, but will be
available to law enforcement and child-protective services, and can be considered in
future criminal cases.
Applications for sealing records are made to the court where the conviction for
the most serious offense occurred, or to the court where the applicant was last
convicted if all offenses are of the same class. The application must include a sworn
statement of the reasons why the convictions should be sealed. The district attorney
must be served with the application, and the DA has 45 days to object to the
application. Ultimately, the decision on whether to seal the records is up to the judge,
but if the district attorney objects then there will be a hearing scheduled.
The Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo has the power to grant clemency in
the form of reprieves, commutations, and pardons. The Governor is accepting
applications for Pardon for Convictions at ages 16 and 17. This pardon is offered to
applicants who committed a non-violent crime at age 16 or 17. If you meet all
requirements, you are eligible to be recommended for a pardon. If you receive this
pardon, the New York State Office of Court Administration has stated that it will restrict
public access to your criminal history, meaning that it will not be available to private
employers, landlords or other companies that seek this information.
The seven requirements to be eligible for this pardon are:
1. At least 10 years have passed since you were either convicted of the crime, or released from a period of incarceration for that crime, if applicable.
2. You have been conviction-free since that time.
3. You have been convicted of a non-violent offense.
4. You were not convicted of a sex offense.
5. You are currently a New York State resident.
6. You have paid taxes on any income.
7. You are a productive member of your community, meaning that you are working, looking for work, in school or legitimately unable to work.
The point of these legislative and executive enactments is to give a second
chance to people who made a mistake when they were young, but have been leading
law-abiding lives for years.