FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Susan Walsh 212-267-2600 or firstname.lastname@example.org
NYCLA ISSUES CRIMINAL COURTS TASK FORCE REPORT: COLLATERAL CONSEQUENCES OF NON-CRIMINAL ADJUDICATIONS
NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 1, 2006 – The New York County Lawyers’ Association (NYCLA) has called for the immediate creation of a procedure to address the collateral consequences of non-criminal convictions to petty offenses in a report, The Collateral Consequences of Non-Criminal Adjudications, prepared by its Criminal Courts Task Force. The Report acknowledged the worsening problem of collateral consequences for non-criminals, particularly with the advent of electronic databases. Discovery of these records had previously only been possible by a manual search from courthouse to courthouse. More sophisticated technology now enables individuals to access the New York State Office of Court Administration’s (OCA) electronic database, which contains a statewide listing of all public court records of any individual, including convictions to non-criminal petty offenses, for a $52 fee.
Individuals with no criminal record are increasingly suffering from employment, housing, education and credit problems with the advent of this easily available database.
Under the current sealing structure, there is no avenue for a person who may have otherwise lived and will continue to live a law-abiding life to seal his or her court record for a non-criminal petty offense such as disorderly conduct or a traffic infraction. All law enforcement agencies, which include the Police Department and District Attorney’s Office, in addition to city and state agencies’ fingerprint records, are sealed by law, but the court records remain open.
There is widespread support to resolve immediately this mounting problem. NYCLA’s Report suggests two alternative legislative proposals, both designed to directly address the matter.
According to Susan J. Walsh, Chair of the Task Force that issued the Report, “There is a consensus that the lifelong stigmatization resulting from committing a single infraction such as disorderly conduct is wholly inappropriate and leads to very detrimental effects on a large segment of the population. There is widespread recognition among those in the criminal justice field that collateral consequences in such areas as employment and housing were not contemplated nor endorsed as appropriate punishment for non-criminal offenses. The open question is: How fast and how far should a true sealing provision go?”
The New York County Lawyers’ Association (www.nycla.org) was founded in 1908 as the first major bar association in the country that admitted members without regard to race, ethnicity, religion or gender. Since its inception, it has pioneered some of the most far-reaching and tangible reforms in American jurisprudence and has continuously played an active role in legal developments and public policy.
# # #