Monday, February 6, 2012

NY Bar Proposes Redemption Legislation

The New York State Bar Association has proposed a way to remove, under certain conditions, some nonviolent felony convictions from a person’s public record, reported the New York Times. It would allow for the sealing of misdemeanor convictions and a single nonviolent felony conviction under certain circumstances and with the approval of a judge.

The question is, will the legislature move on such a proposal. Bar association members have little concern with the political consequences of being perceived as soft on crime or worse pro-crime. While there have been successful efforts with redemption legislation in some states, felony forgiveness is not often the focus of such efforts. Pennsylvania is looking at a redemption measure that would clean the slate for individuals convicted of a minor misdemeanor.

In New York, crimes against children and the elderly, sex crimes and public corruption would be excluded. The offender would have to wait five years after a misdemeanor conviction, or eight after a felony conviction, before the record could be sealed, and could not commit any crimes during the waiting period. Subsequent crimes would result in the sealed record’s becoming public again.

The idea is to help people who made a single mistake and have found themselves severely restricted in getting hired. Employers increasingly check criminal histories of applicants, and those with a criminal conviction are barred from many licensed trades in New York, including being a barber or a boxer, the association said in a report.

“This is really something that can benefit hundreds of thousands of people dating back many, many years,” Rick Collins co-chairman of the bar committee that wrote the proposal told the Times.

The state’s District Attorneys Association wrote a letter to the bar association expressing doubts about the new proposal and suggesting that current allowances for sealing conviction records — which focus largely on some drug charges and youthful offenses — may be sufficient, reported the Times.

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