New York’s New Criminal Record Sealing Law
New York’s new sealing law (Criminal Procedure Law §160.59) went into effect on October 7, 2017. This law gives those with eligible convictions a chance to minimize the negative impacts (eg. ineligibility for employment, loss of housing, loss of professional licenses, ec…) these criminal convictions have had on their lives by having their records sealed.
Every candidate must apply for the privilege of record sealing. There are no guarantees that an application will be granted. Most candidates will be best served by having an experienced criminal defense attorney help them navigate the application process.
Who is eligible for getting their criminal records sealed?
Individuals with no more than one New York State felony conviction or two criminal convictions that is/are at least a decade old may apply to have their criminal records permanently sealed. Those with minor or nonviolent offense records have the best chance to have their applications approved without a prosecutor’s or judge’s challenge, but it is important to avoid taking chances.
Applying to have your criminal record sealed is not a simple matter of filling out a form. You must file a motion with the court in which you were convicted. This motion requires the inclusion of a certificate of disposition, a sworn statement indicating the convictions you are trying to have sealed, and advocacy that will make a compelling case for why you deserve to have your record sealed.
The prosecutor’s office can challenge any sealing application, and eligibility alone is not enough to guarantee your application will be approved. Working with a highly qualified criminal defense lawyer to file your application and supporting documents will give you your best chance to have your criminal records sealed.
You only get one chance to seal your criminal records. Do not take a chance by trying to “go at it alone.”
What disqualifies someone from having their criminal records sealed?
There are a number of factors which may bar you from sealing your records. You are ineligible to have your records sealed if you:
- Are required to register as a sex offender under New York law.
- Have 3 or more adult criminal convictions.
- Have two or more felony convictions.
- Have committed a Class A felony, a violent felony, homicide felonies, sexually violent offenses, or any conviction for conspiracy to commit any ineligible offense.
- Have been convicted of other crimes by other states, or by Federal courts.
- Have been convicted of another crime after the conviction you are seeking to seal.
- The conviction is less than ten years old.
- You have an undisposed arrest or pending charge which must be dealt with.
If your record falls within any of these criteria there are severe restrictions on your right to have your record sealed. However, you may still have some options for reducing the day-to-day consequences of your crimes. For example, you may still be able to apply for a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities. Individuals with a criminal record are automatically barred from some professions; this certificate may lift those bars. You may also seek a Certificate of Good Conduct, which is similar, and removes bars to serving in certain public offices.
What happens when you apply to have your criminal records sealed?
After you apply, the prosecutor’s office has 45 days to challenge the Motion to Seal Criminal Records. If the prosecutor exercises this right, your motion will be scheduled for a sealing hearing before a judge. You will want an aggressive criminal defense lawyer by your side should you find yourself in one of these hearings, a strong advocate for you as your case comes under scrutiny.
The judge will be considering every aspect of your application and your crimes. You will need professional assistance to make a case that you are now a fully productive member of society, a person of good and trustworthy character. In addition to evaluating your personal history and characteristics since your last conviction, the judge will be reviewing the seriousness of your offense record, the possible public safety impact of sealing your records, and the victim statements from your conviction(s).
What does sealing a person’s criminal records accomplish?
Sealing is not expungement—it doesn’t mean your crimes have been deleted. However, it does mean most employers will not be able to view a record of your offense(s). They will not show up in most background checks.
Some parties may still be able to view your criminal records. An employer will be able to view your sealed records if you apply for a job which will require you to carry a fireman. Law enforcement officials may also view your sealed records if you are arrested while on parole. In addition, under certain circumstances, your records may be viewed by court order in the event you are arrested for a new crime.
Regardless, sealing your records could mean you no longer struggle to find employment, obtain loans, or secure housing. Bringing this motion to court is a necessary first step to help you move forward. If you believe you are eligible to take advantage of this law, contact Mark I. Cohen.
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Mark I. Cohen
New York City Criminal Defense Attorney
New York, NY 10007