You are reading

Queens Assemblywoman Sponsors Bill That Would Seal and Expunge Criminal Records

Queens Assembly Member Catalina Cruz on a virtual press briefing Thursday (Photo: via Zoom)

March 3, 2021 By Michael Dorgan 

Queens Assembly Member Catalina Cruz is sponsoring a bill that would see the conviction records of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers expunged if passed.

The bill, called the Clean Slate Act, aims to effectively seal and expunge the criminal history of New Yorkers who have been convicted of a crime as a means to help them integrate back into society. The bill does not apply to those convicted of crimes such as murder, manslaughter and sex crimes.

Advocates for the bill, such as Cruz, say that people who have served time in prison have paid their debt to society and should not be forever burdened with a record. People with criminal records, they say, find it difficult to find employment and access housing.

“We must eliminate the collateral damage created by past conviction records,” Cruz said during a virtual press briefing Thursday.

“As part of our ongoing pursuit of true criminal justice reform, we must focus on human dignity, fairness, and guaranteeing that individuals are not punished beyond their sentences,” Cruz said.

The legislation, which is in committee, consists of a two-step process where past convictions are sealed and later expunged if certain conditions are met.

A person convicted of a felony– who serves prison time– would have their record automatically sealed three years after getting out of jail. After seven years of leaving prison, the record would be expunged.

In the case of a misdemeanor, it would be sealed one year after getting out of jail–or if the person is not given jail time, it would apply a year after sentencing. The record would be expunged five years after being released from jail– or from the time of sentencing.

Sealed convictions would not show up for most civil background checks, such as for housing and employment. When the record is expunged, it directs the court to treat the criminal conviction as if it had never occurred. It essentially removes it from a defendant’s criminal record.

However, people will not be eligible to have their record sealed or expunged if they have criminal charges pending or are on probation or parole. Serious crimes like murder come with lifetime parole, Cruz said.

The legislation is named after the Clean Slate campaign— an initiative being carried out across several states that seeks to reform the criminal justice system. The New York branch of the campaign is made up of groups like the Center for Community Alternatives, the Community Service Society of New York and the Legal Aid Society.

The campaign group said that the bill had the potential to expunge the records of 2.3 million state residents.

Advocates say that a Michigan law that expunged convictions in that state has proven successful. Within one year of expunging conviction records, people who had criminal records in Michigan were 11 percent more likely to be employed and earn higher wages, the group stated–citing a study conducted last year.

The New York branch of the Clean Slate campaign said that black and brown New Yorkers are most affected by the consequences of a conviction record due to over-policing and over-prosecution.

“Records clearance remains out of reach for most New Yorkers, worsening racial and economic inequality,” Clean Slate New York said in a statement.

“We have the opportunity now to reverse course by ensuring more New Yorkers can access relief, and that all those who can benefit will – automatically.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Cruz was a co-sponsor of the bill. She is in fact the sponsor.

email the author: [email protected]

6 Comments

Click for Comments 
Frank

On the contrary, we need to reinforce and be more readily available to Police, all criminal records.

Reply
Jerks

Stop the pity party for criminals. I cant stand this, pity the predator . Ridiculous way of thought.

Reply
pfon71361

It’s a long-overdue reform where one-time offenders can leave their past mistakes behind them for good and better themselves without further consequences.

Reply
Jose Cruz

Wouldn’t it be nice if out politicians would spend an equal amount of their time supporting crime VICTIMS!

Reply
James MacQuade

Yes they should have it on their record for life. If you commit the crime you should suffer the consequences for the rest of your life. Too bad.

11
Reply
Think about that Cruz

What about the victims of these criminals ?
How about their lives & how being a victim impacted them ?

Reply

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Borough president hears from community members on budget needs throughout Queens

During a two-day public hearing on the mayor’s 2024 preliminary budget, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. listened to testimonies from 14 community board representatives, community stakeholders and members of the public on where the money should be spent in Queens. 

The public hearings were held both in-person and via Zoom on Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Queens Borough Hall. The testimonials will be used to develop the Queens Borough Board’s FY24 preliminary budget priorities in the coming weeks. 

‘He didn’t deserve to die’: Borough President Richards leads emotional candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols outside Queens Borough Hall Monday, Jan. 30 after Nichols’ death at the hands of police officers in Memphis, Tenn., made national headlines for the brutality in which the officers beat him.

Almost immediately after news broke about Nichols’ death, the Memphis police officers who beat him to death were fired and charged with murder. The police department released the body cam footage of the fatal beating on Jan. 27, but many people, including some at the vigil, have refused to watch it due to its extremely graphic nature.

Op-Ed: This Year’s State Budget Must Prioritize Climate, Jobs, and Justice for New York

Op-Ed, Jan. 30, By Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas

In a time of rampant economic inequality and environmental injustice, it is easy to feel defeated.  Here in Queens and across New York State, however, communities are organizing for a better future. New Yorkers from different backgrounds and with different lived experiences are proving that we can build community, organize, and create a future that reflects our shared values.

BP launches new advisory panel for youth to become civically engaged in the future of Queens

In an effort to get more young people involved in civics, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards has created a new advisory panel known as the Youth and Young Adult Council to introduce the “youngest and fiercest” community advocates to both community service and organization.

Members of the advisory body will advocate concerns through means of community engagement by participating in one of two cohorts. The first will be made up of high school representatives between the ages of 13 and 17, while the second cohort will be comprised of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

Raga sworn in as first-ever Filipino American elected to the state Legislature

More than 300 community members attended the historic inauguration of Assemblyman Steven Raga as the first Filipino American elected to office in New York state.

Many who attended the swearing-in event at the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows Corona Park wore traditional and cultural attire to the event at the building that once housed the General Assembly of the newly formed United Nations from 1946 to 1950 until its current home in Manhattan became available for the world body.