Some ex-convicts would enjoy clean slate — their criminal pasts sealed — under new NY law

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A 42-year-old dad has applied again and again for new jobs, determined to find better paying employment, but misdemeanors from his past have haunted him and thwarted his chances.

There’s new hope for him thanks to a little known New York State law, passed last fall, which allows people with up to two misdemeanor convictions, or one non-violent felony conviction that’s at least 10 years old to have those convictions sealed.

It would change so much for Anthony, whose real name PIX11 is concealing as he searches for a new job. Anthony was charged with a DUI in 1997 and petty larceny in 2007. Both are non-violent misdemeanors.

“I applied for one of the biggest hospitals in New York. I got the job, basically,” Anthony said. “[I} wet through five interviews and, right before orientation, I was told because of my record that I can’t have a job anymore.”

Anthony, who’s worked the same job now for 17 years, wants a clean slate.

“I was a kid,” he said about the misdemeanors from his past. “I was running around doing crazy things and you get caught up, know what I mean? But I turned my whole life around. I’m not the same person anymore.”

He’s not the only one. Emma Goodman of the New York Legal Aid Society believes there are at least 600,000 people eligible to have their convictions sealed.

“They can’t get jobs. They can’t get private housing because private housing companies can do background checks and deny people,” Goodman said. “They can’t get professional licenses. There are so many different things that having a criminal record prevents you from doing – no matter what the crime is.”

Goodman estimates about one and a half percent of those eligible  have gone through the extremely confusing application process.

Her advice? If you have a criminal record – for anything – find out exactly what’s on it.

“We have people come in and we help them get a copy of their rap sheet,” Goodman said.

Anthony did just that and, with the help of Ms. Goodman’s unit at the Legal Aid Society, he’s optimistic about the road ahead.

“I believe in it and I’m supporting it,” he said. “One hundred percent.”

You can go to the Legal Aid Society’s website for more information here.

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