Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (R-Merrick) today announced that the New York State Senate has passed his legislation to prevent individuals from changing their name to avoid the justice system or their legal obligations.
“Criminals use legal name changes to hide from the legal system and bury their history. Current law is making it far too easy for them to do this,” said Senator Fuschillo. “This legislation would create stronger safeguards to detect these criminals before they change their name and prevent them from using this as a way to run from the law.”
Courts across the state receive change of name petitions each day. However, because of the routine nature of these applications, many courts approve them without thoroughly verifying the applicant’s information.
The lack of appropriate verification creates an opening for criminals to use these petitions in order to escape their legal obligations or hide their criminal histories. A legal name change creates an additional step for law enforcement, who must put together a paper trail in order to discover their true identities. Criminals can take advantage of this delay and often escape detection in ordinary verification circumstances such as traffic stops.
Senator Fuschillo’s legislation (S528) would require all convicted violent felons and sex offenders to report their convictions on their name change petitions, as well as inform the prosecuting DA and the sentencing court of their intention to change their name. Currently, these requirements apply only to violent felons or sex offenders who are incarcerated, on probation, or on parole.
The legislation would also direct the state’s Office of Court Administration to create new procedures which ensure that reasonable steps are taken to verify information provided on name change petitions so that criminals cannot change their name as a way to avoid detection.
The legislation has been sent to the Assembly for consideration.