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27 Nov 23

Expungement and Sealing of Criminal Records in Long Island: What You Need to Know

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Last Updated on: 6th December 2023, 11:06 pm

Getting a Fresh Start: Expunging and Sealing Criminal Records on Long Island

We all make mistakes, especially when we’re young. But in today’s world, even a minor brush with the law can haunt you for life. That old misdemeanor or petty offense stays on your record, popping up in background checks and casting doubt in employers’ minds. However, there is hope – you may be able to expunge or seal your New York criminal record. This guide explains everything you need to know about cleaning up your history in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

What’s the Difference Between Expungement and Sealing of Criminal Records?

Let’s start with some definitions. Expungement and record sealing both aim to remove offenses from your permanent file, but they work differently:

  • Expungement erases the arrest and conviction from your record, like it never happened. The court destroys or seals all records related to the case.
  • Sealing hides the case from public view without destroying records. Courts, law enforcement, and some employers can still access sealed cases in limited circumstances.

New York restricts full expungement to a few minor convictions like disorderly conduct violations or low-level marijuana possession. More serious misdemeanors and felonies don’t qualify for expungement but may still be eligible for sealing.

What Types of Offenses Can Be Removed from Your Record?

The short answer – it depends. Eligibility for cleaning up a criminal record varies case by case based on:

  • Type and severity of offense
  • Outcome of the case (conviction, dismissal, acquittal, etc.)
  • Time elapsed since the offense
  • Number and nature of other convictions on your record

As a general rule, non-criminal violations, minor misdemeanors, and cases ending in acquittal or dismissal tend to qualify more often. Felonies are harder to seal or expunge but may still be possible in limited circumstances.

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Here are some common examples of what can and can’t be removed in New York:

Potentially Eligible for Expungement:

  • Disorderly conduct violations
  • Trespassing violations
  • Low-level marijuana possession (under 25g)
  • Certain traffic infractions

Potentially Eligible for Sealing:

  • Misdemeanor assault, larceny, fraud, theft
  • Most drug possession charges
  • DWI for first-time offenders

Typically Not Eligible:

  • All felonies (can sometimes seal after 10 years)
  • Most violent or sexual crimes
  • Serious driving offenses (felony DWI, hit and run, etc.)

When in doubt, consult an experienced criminal record sealing attorney to explore your options. Small details of your case may open doors you didn’t know existed.

What Is the Waiting Period to Seal or Expunge a Criminal Record in New York?

Assuming your offense qualifies, you must wait a minimum period from the final disposition of the case before applying for record relief. The waiting period gives you a chance to demonstrate good behavior and rehabilitation.

  • Violations – No waiting period for expungement
  • Misdemeanors – 3 years for sealing
  • Felonies – 10 years for sealing

These are minimum time frames, not guarantees. The court also considers how well you’ve moved past your criminal mistakes before approving a record sealing request. Maintaining a clean record is vital during the waiting period.

What Is the Process for Sealing or Expunging a Criminal Record on Long Island?

The process for record relief varies slightly between Nassau and Suffolk Counties but involves these basic steps:

  1. Research specific eligibility rules and gather documentation from your case.
  2. Complete petition forms – available online or at the court clerk’s office.
  3. File forms with the county court that handled your case. This starts the sealing or expungement application.
  4. Attend court hearing and interview before a judge.
  5. If approved, the court issues a sealing or expungement order. Records get updated accordingly.

Simple cases can complete steps 1-5 in 2-3 months. Complex situations often take 6 months or longer winding through the system. Unlike some states, New York does not allow DIY record relief without a hearing. Hiring an attorney maximizes your chances for success.

What Happens Once Your Record Gets Sealed or Expunged in New York?

The effects of record relief depend on whether you expunged or sealed your case.

With expungement, it’s like the arrest and conviction never happened. References get deleted from the NY criminal database and FBI records. Most applications no longer require you to disclose expunged cases.

Sealing keeps files accessible to some government agencies but hides them from most background checks. Private landlords and employers cannot see your sealed record. You still must disclose sealed cases on certain government, legal, and licensing applications. Violating these disclosure rules carries penalties.

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In most contexts, however, sealing enables a clean slate nearly comparable to expungement.

Does an Out-of-State Conviction Need to Be Cleared in New York?

Out-of-state cases require extra steps before New York courts can seal or expunge them. You must first navigate the other state’s record relief process. Once cleared there, file a motion to recognize the foreign sealing/expungement order in New York. This adds it to your NY record relief.

Without formal recognition, an out-of-state conviction still shows up on reports in New York. Clearing it nationwide is essential for a fresh start.

Why Work With a Lawyer for Expungement or Record Sealing?

Technically, New York allows you to petition for record relief without an attorney. But navigating all the legal complexities alone is tough. An experienced criminal record sealing lawyer knows the system inside out. They spot issues you miss and help overcome common roadblocks, such as:

  • Determining eligibility
  • Gathering case documents
  • Filling out forms correctly
  • Drafting persuasive legal arguments
  • Negotiating with judges and prosecutors
  • Ensuring proper processing of sealing/expungement orders

Post-COVID court backlogs also slow record relief applications to a crawl. Retaining counsel gets your case prioritized faster.

Lawyers also help seal or expunge records in multiple counties/states simultaneously – something extremely difficult for non-lawyers managing the process alone.

Can a Conviction Be Removed from Your Record Without Sealing or Expungement?

Rarely, but it happens. In certain cases, defendants can negotiate to reduce charges to non-criminal dispositions or have convictions vacated post-sentencing.

Examples include:

  • Plea deals to disorderly conduct or trespassing violations
  • Conditional discharge sentences
  • Post-conviction 440 Motions
  • Certificate of Relief from Disabilities

Though not technically sealing or expungement, these outcomes scrub convictions from your permanent record. An attorney experienced in creative plea negotiations can sometimes make these longshots a reality.

Take Control of Your Future

A Long Island criminal record doesn’t have to haunt you forever. For qualifying offenses, expungement and record sealing offer a path to redemption. Free yourself from past mistakes so you can build the peaceful, successful life you deserve. Consult an attorney to explore your options today.