If you’ve ever been charged with a crime, you’re naturally going to be worried about having a criminal record. It has the potential to haunt you for the rest of your life, limiting your job prospects and denying you access to certain public benefits and professional licenses. Is there any way to clear your record, or at least make the contents unavailable to anyone outside of law enforcement?
New York law does not allow you to expunge a criminal record, even if you were later found not guilty. Under certain circumstances you may be able to seal your record, meaning that it is not available for public viewing even though it continues to exist. Once your record is sealed, the following evidence and documentation are destroyed:
In New York, most convictions for non-criminal offenses, such as traffic violations and minor infractions, will be sealed after one year if you have an otherwise clean record. If you were convicted as a juvenile and stayed out of trouble as an adult, your record will also be sealed. In most other circumstances, you have to directly apply for a sealing.
Thanks to Criminal Procedure Law § 160.59, which goes into effect on September 27, 2017, you may apply to have up to two criminal convictions sealed. Only one of the two may be for a felony, and 10 years must pass between your conviction date (or release from prison) and the date you apply for a sealing.
There are exceptions, however. If you have been convicted of a Class A felony, sex crime, or violent felony, that record may not be sealed.
The sealing application process consists of contacting the clerk’s office of the court that handled your case, filling out a petition to seal records form, and filing a motion. When deciding whether or not to grant your application, the court will consider factors such as:
If your application is approved, all records pertaining to your arrest, prosecution, and conviction shall be sealed and made unavailable to the general public. If your record contains offenses that cannot be sealed, you can still ease certain employment or licensing restrictions by obtaining a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities or a Certificate of Good Conduct.
Sealing your criminal record will give you a fresh start, improve your reintegration into the community, and remove obstacles to employment, housing, and other opportunities. If you have questions about your own eligibility for a record sealing, contact Bergstein Flynn and Knowlton PLLC for legal advice and assistance that are appropriate for your situation.