Gov. Cuomo signs legislation clarifying criminal procedures to seal petty offenses

ALBANY, NY —  Governor Cuomo today signed legislation S.6347/A.7584, which amends the criminal procedure law to clarify that individuals convicted of petty offenses will have their records sealed by default. Sealed records will not be made available to any person or public or private agency unless a judge determines otherwise. 

“For years, local law enforcement agencies were not consistent in how they chose to seal conviction records for petty offenses,” Governor Cuomo said. “By signing this legislation, we can take a small step to greatly improve disparities in the criminal justice system.”

For nearly 14 years, starting in 1980, nearly all non-criminal dispositions that appeared on an individual’s criminal history report had been sealed. However, when the law was amended in 1994, local law enforcement agencies began to inconsistently seal petty offenses, depending on whether the arrest carried a more serious charge of a crime. This inconsistency resulted in an unusual and unintended irregularity of individuals charged with misdemeanors or felonies receiving more favorable treatment than those charged with petty offenses.

Specifically, this new law clarifies that that the sealing applies to the conviction charges as reflected in the final disposition of the case, not the original charge – with the exception of the violations of loitering or operating a motor vehicle while impaired. The legislation will take effect in 90 days.

Senator Jamaal T. Bailey said, “As we continue to make necessary changes to our justice system, we must correct technicalities in the law that unduly disadvantage New Yorkers. The inconsistency in the statute concerning the sealing of petty offenses needed to be remedied, as it had the potential to unintentionally derail the lives of those who should reasonably expect their records would be sealed. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill, Assembly Member Joe Lentol for his leadership and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins for understanding the need for this change.”

Assembly Member Joseph Lentol said, “I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this important legislation that brings even more fairness to New York’s criminal justice system.   By signing this legislation we clarify the law, making it absolutely clear to law enforcement, that low level violations that many individuals thought had been sealed – like a criminal violation of marijuana possession for having a joint – are now sealed.”