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Rick Collins Quoted in the NY Times

Proposal to Cut Some Felonies From Records


The New York State Bar Association is proposing a change to state law that would allow more types of criminal records to be sealed, saying the shift would give offenders who stay out of trouble a better chance to rebuild their lives.

The proposal, approved Friday in a vote by the association’s House of Delegates, would create a way to remove, under certain conditions, some nonviolent felony convictions from a person’s public record.

The idea, the association said, 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,” said Rick Collins, a Long Island-based defense lawyer and the co-chairman of the committee that wrote the proposal.

The proposal would bring New York in line with other states, Mr. Collins said. 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.

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.

It is far from certain that Albany will take up the proposal. Two bills seeking similar changes stalled last year.

The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York 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.

The letter, signed by Janet DiFiore, the Westchester County district attorney and the president of the state district attorneys association, also questioned whether such a change would meet the concerns of victims and the needs of employers who care for vulnerable populations.

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