27 Nov 23

How to Expunge a Federal Criminal Record in New York City

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Last Updated on: 15th December 2023, 06:26 pm

How to Expunge a Federal Criminal Record in New York City

Having a criminal record can make life real tough. It can be hard to get a job, rent an apartment, or do other normal stuff. If you have a federal criminal record in New York City, you might be able to get it expunged. That means having it sealed or destroyed. This article explains how.

What is Expungement?

When a record gets expunged, it’s taken off your criminal record. For most purposes, it’s like the crime never happened. There are a few ways records can be expunged:

  • Sealed – The record still exists but is unavailable to the public.
  • Destroyed – The record is deleted and gone forever.
  • Set-aside – The conviction is set aside but the arrest may still show up.

The process is different for state and federal crimes. This article covers federal. For state crimes in New York, check the NY state courts website.

Who Qualifies for Federal Expungement?

Not everyone can get their federal record expunged. Here are some requirements:

  • It’s been at least 5 years since completing your sentence.
  • No more than 1 felony or 3 misdemeanor convictions.
  • No serious violent felonies like murder, rape, terrorism, etc.
  • No sex offender registration requirement.

You’ll also need to show you’ve been rehabilitated and deserve a clean slate. Having a job, going to school, volunteering, etc. can help prove that.

How to Apply for Federal Expungement

To get the process started, you’ll need to file a petition with the court. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Get your criminal record from the FBI and court where convicted.
  2. Review the record for accuracy and make sure you qualify.
  3. Draft a petition explaining why you deserve expungement.
  4. File the petition in the federal court district where convicted.
  5. Serve the petition on the U.S. Attorney’s office.
  6. The court will schedule a hearing to decide on your petition.
  7. If approved, the court will order your record expunged.

This gives a basic overview, but the details can get complicated. It’s strongly recommended to speak with an attorney for help with the process.

What Happens at the Court Hearing

The hearing is your chance to explain why your record should be expunged. Some tips for the hearing:

  • Dress professionally and be polite.
  • Bring documents showing rehabilitation (certificates, letters, etc.).
  • Explain the negative impact of your record.
  • Take responsibility for your past mistakes.
  • Highlight the positive changes you’ve made in your life.
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The prosecutor may argue against you, so be prepared. Answer questions from the judge honestly. In the end, it’s up to the judge whether to grant your petition.

What Happens After Expungement?

If your petition is granted, your record will be expunged based on the court’s order. This can take a few weeks to process. After expungement:

  • Your record will be sealed, set aside, or deleted.
  • You can legally say you don’t have a conviction (with some exceptions).
  • Your record won’t show up on most background checks.
  • You can apply for jobs, housing, loans etc. without disclosing it.

There are still some cases where your record could be visible even after expungement. For example, law enforcement and courts may still access sealed records in some cases. And the expungement won’t delete the record from every database. But it gives you a clean slate for most purposes.

Other Options if You Don’t Qualify

If you don’t qualify for expungement, don’t give up hope! Here are some other options:

  • Presidential pardon – Forgives your crime and restores rights.
  • Certificate of Rehabilitation – Shows your rehabilitation for housing/jobs.
  • Set-aside – Conviction reversed but arrest may remain.
  • Record sealing – Less complete than expungement but limits access.

You may also consider asking employers or landlords to overlook your record if you’ve clearly turned your life around. There are always ways forward!


Getting a federal conviction expunged in New York can be challenging, but it’s possible if you meet the requirements. The entire expungement process can take 6 months to a year. It’s crucial to understand the steps involved and seek legal help. If you qualify and take the right actions, you can get a fresh start and move on with life after a criminal record.