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July 16, 2019

Less than 1% of people with low-level convictions have taken advantage of law giving nonviolent offenders chance to seal records

February 6, 2019
Not many people are taking advantage of the new state criminal record sealing law. (iStockphoto)

Fewer than 800 people with criminal records successfully had their convictions sealed since a New York State law giving nonviolent offenders a second chance went into effect — less than 1% of eligible applicants, data shows.

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At the launch of the program in October 2017, authorities estimated there were as many as 600,000 eligible prospects — an individual can only seal up to two misdemeanors or a misdemeanor and a low-level, nonviolent felony, and the convictions must be at least a decade old.

In the months since the law went into effect, public defenders and private lawyers alike have hustled to submit applications to have their clients’ records sealed. But the numbers show they’ve barely been able to make a dent, which some blame on a lack of awareness.

“It’s shameful that out of the 600,000 individuals who could benefit from this law, less than 1% have taken advantage of it,” said Emma Goodman, who heads the Legal Aid Society’s Case Closed Sealing Project.

“There should be a full statewide publicity campaign and other efforts to raise awareness,” the lawyer added. “The reforms are meaningless unless Albany and others ensure that the word is reaching those impacted.”

Manhattan leads the state with the most granted applications — 159 — since the law was put on the books. Nassau is second with 109 and Suffolk had 91.

People who have gone through the process have described the second chance as life changing.

One of Goodman’s clients, who previously spoke to the Daily News, said his drug conviction was an aberration in his life that he regrets and has moved on from.

“The conviction does not represent who I am as a person and is a significant source of embarrassment in my life,” Richie, whose Brooklyn case was wiped, wrote in his application.

The 52-year-old married father of two daughters, a trained carpenter, admits he was “just being a knucklehead” when he got caught selling crack-cocaine in 1993.

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