25 Sep 23

When can a criminal record be sealed or expunged in New York?

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Last Updated on: 25th September 2023, 07:09 pm


Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records in New York

If you have a criminal record in New York, you may be wondering if there’s any way to get it sealed or expunged. A record can be a major barrier to jobs, housing, and other opportunities.

Unfortunately, New York state law does not provide any true “expungement” options to erase a record. However, there are some limited circumstances where records can potentially be sealed from public view.

What is the Difference Between Sealing and Expungement?

Sealing and expungement are two different processes[1]:

  • Sealing hides a criminal record from the public but does not destroy it completely.
  • Expungement erases the record altogether as if it never existed.

New York only allows sealing in certain situations. True expungement of criminal records is not authorized under NY law.

When Can a Criminal Record Be Sealed in New York?

There are a few main ways to have records sealed in New York[2]:

1. After 10 Years Clean

Records of up to 2 misdemeanor convictions or 1 felony/1 misdemeanor can potentially be sealed if you’ve been conviction-free for 10 years[3].

2. Completing Drug Treatment

Certain drug convictions can be conditionally sealed after completing a court-ordered treatment program.

3. Marijuana Expungement

Some minor marijuana possession convictions are now eligible for complete expungement under NY law.

What is the Process for Sealing a Criminal Record?

To apply for sealing in NY, you generally need to[4]:

  1. Obtain certificates of disposition for your convictions
  2. File a motion with the court that sentenced you
  3. Serve the motion on the District Attorney
  4. Attend a hearing where the judge decides whether to grant sealing

If approved, records are hidden from public databases but still accessible by law enforcement.

What Types of Records Can Be Sealed in NY?

Sealing in New York applies only to NY state convictions reported to the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS)[5]. It does not cover:

  • Federal convictions
  • Out-of-state convictions
  • Arrests that did not lead to a conviction
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Only the actual NY conviction can be sealed – not related arrests, mugshots, fingerprints, etc. The court file itself also remains untouched.

Does Sealing a Criminal Record Completely Erase It?

No, sealing does not completely destroy or erase the record like expungement does[6]. Sealing simply hides the record from public view.

Law enforcement agencies can still access sealed records. And private background checks may still show the conviction.

What is the Effect of Having a Record Sealed in NY?

If a record is sealed in New York, the conviction should not appear on most public databases or background checks run by employers or landlords.

You can also legally deny the conviction occurred when asked on job, housing, or school applications.

However, the record is still accessible by police, prosecutors, and some licensing agencies like childcare services.

Are All Criminal Convictions Eligible for Sealing in NY?

No, many serious felony convictions can never be sealed under New York law, including:

  • Violent felonies
  • Sex offenses
  • Most Class A felonies

Talk to an attorney to see if your specific convictions are eligible to be sealed.

Should I Hire an Attorney to Seal My Record?

Yes, working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer greatly improves your chances of successfully sealing eligible convictions.

An attorney can navigate the legal process, persuade judges, and maximize your opportunity to put mistakes in the past.

The Bottom Line

While true expungement is not authorized in New York, sealing criminal records is possible in limited circumstances. This can help remove obstacles to jobs, housing, and education.

Consult an attorney to explore whether you qualify to have convictions sealed and get a fresh start.