On April 12, 2017, The New York State Legislature passed the 2017-18 budget, now signed by the Governor, with exciting new developments in the field of criminal law.  While one change involved raising the State’s age of criminal responsibility, a much more far-reaching provision has been included in the budget.  Legislators added a new section to the Criminal Procedural Law, § 160.59, allowing for the sealing of select criminal convictions.  This change will allow the tens of thousands deserving New Yorkers who are now eligible to seal their criminal convictions and gain a fresh start on life.

Before this law passed, a criminal conviction in New York remained on a person’s record for life, and would appear as part of any civil background check.  Under the new law, many crimes are eligible for record sealing, including most misdemeanor and felony convictions.  A sealed record means the conviction cannot be made available to the public, and will not appear as part of a civil background check.  Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) convictions are eligible for sealing.  Sex offenses, homicides, and other violent felonies are among the crimes that are ineligible for sealing. 

The new law permits two eligible offenses to be sealed, but not more than one eligible felony offense. In addition, a person with two or more felony convictions will also be ineligible to apply for record sealing.  To qualify, ten years must have passed since the imposition of sentence on the most recent conviction.  An applicant also cannot have any pending charges or have any criminal convictions within the preceding 10 years. 

Upon the granting of a sealing motion, the conviction would still be made available to certain law enforcement agencies, including local agencies responsible for the issuance of gun permits.

“Our firm has worked on behalf of many of the people that this newly passed law will impact and are pleased that the State of New York recognizes its importance and significance to this population of people,” says Rick Collins, Founding Partner at Collins Gann McCloskey & Barry PLLC. “The passing of this law will have a drastic impact on people throughout New York whose lives have been tarnished by the stigma of a long-ago criminal record.  Allowing these convictions to be sealed is a great opportunity for people throughout New York State to truly wipe the slate clean.”

Over the past few years Collins has become a legal trailblazer as the co-chairman of the New York State Bar Association Criminal Justice Section Sealing Committee and the co-author of the committee’s Report and Recommendations to conditionally seal certain low-level criminal convictions in New York. His committee’s report was adopted by the New York State Bar Association and the Nassau County Bar Association, and endorsed by Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.  The bill passed by the Legislature has evolved from the report, making history by changing the law regarding the sealing of criminal records in New York State.

In addition, last year Collins was appointed by New York State Bar Association President Seymour W. James, Jr. to serve on a New York State Bar Association Special Committee created to address the issue of prisoner re-entry, to examine problems that formerly incarcerated individuals face upon release from prison or jail and the kind of services needed to help them lead productive lives.

For more information about criminal record sealing in New York, contact us here, or call 516-294-0300.