Governor signs criminal justice reform legislation for petty offenses

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Albany, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Governor Andrew Cuomo signed new legislation Monday clarifying criminal procedures to seal petty offenses.

The new law 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.

According to the Governor’s Office 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 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.

An offense is defined as in New York State:

“Conduct for which a sentence to a term of imprisonment or to a fine is provided by any law of this state or by any law, local law or ordinance of a political subdivision of this state, or by any order, rule or regulation of any governmental instrumentality authorized by law to adopt the same.”

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