NEW YORK (WABC) -- More than two million criminal records will be sealed after Gov. Kathy Hochul signed long-sought Clean Slate legislation.
Hochul signed the Clean Slate Act, a landmark piece of legislation, at the Brooklyn Museum on Thursday morning.
Under the legislation, a person's felony records will be sealed eight years after conviction or release from prison; three years for a misdemeanor. A clean record must be maintained to qualify for the program.
"The Clean Slate Act is a historic step forward with regard to restorative justice and second chances," said Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado. "This will allow so many New Yorkers to build a new future for themselves, their families, and their community."
The bill excludes the most serious criminal convictions like murder, sex crimes and most class A felonies, except those related to drug possession.
It goes into effect a year from now, though it will take three more years to clear the records of those currently waiting.
New York will then be one of a dozen states with such legislation. Hochul said it will help fill more the more than 450,000 open jobs in the state.
"The best crime-fighting tool is a good-paying job. That's why I support giving New Yorkers a clean slate after they've paid their debt to society and gone years without an additional offense," Governor Hochul said. "I negotiated a compromise that protects public safety and boosts economic opportunity, and the final Clean Slate Law will help New Yorkers access jobs and housing while allowing police, prosecutors and school officials to protect their communities. And as our state faces a worker shortage, with more than 450,000 job openings right now, this new law will help businesses find more workers who will help them grow, expand and thrive."
Officials like Attorney General Letitia James says the legislation will change lives.
"Twenty-six years after successfully completing my sentence, despite all that I have accomplished, I continue to have doors closed in my face," said Melinda Agnew with Center for Community Alternatives
Former Congressman and Republican Gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin is blasting the bill.
In a statement, he said, "In Kathy Hochul's New York, pro-criminal laws have been surrendering our streets to criminals, our law enforcement officers aren't adequately supported and we remain the only state in the nation that does not allow judges' discretion to weigh dangerousness when setting bail."
Zeldin lost to Hochul in a closer than expected race last year.