By Robert Gavin
ALBANY – Albany County District Attorney David Soares said Tuesday he will ask judges to seal the convictions of offenders – including some felons -- who have turned their lives around for at least 10 years.
The prosecutor detailed his plans as a state law is about to take effect Saturday allowing people with criminal records to apply to the court system to have their convictions sealed. The law was enacted as part of the "Raise the Age" legislation enacted in April to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18 for nonviolent offenses.
"The first thing that people think about when you talk about sealing records is the fact that you don't want violent offenders or people who've committed egregious crimes to hide behind some altruistic strategy," Soares said in a news conference in his office. "Well, that is simply not the case here."
Offenders who committed or conspired to commit violent crimes such as a murder and sexual offenses would be ineligible as would someone whose conviction was not at least 10 years old.
Those eligible can have up to two convictions sealed, including a felony, he said. Soares said he would be reaching out to the defense bar and public defenders in Albany County and other agencies that service ex-offenders.
He said an "open house" would soon be held in his office to provide attorneys and others guidance on the plan "so we could both be on the same page as we're assisting individuals to seal their prior convictions."
Soares said his office has already asked judges to seal records in some cases. He noted examples where he went to bat for a people facing potential deportation for an offense.
In June, Soares announced a three-part plan that included a component to allow defendants between 16 and 24 to resolve cases without a criminal record or any time behind bars.