Sealing Convictions In New York | Lawyers & Attorneys
Having a criminal record can prevent you from moving on and living a successful life. Criminal convictions can impact your ability to:
- Obtain a loan or certain insurances
- Participate in organizations
- Adopt children
- Gain employment
- Obtain certain licenses
- Obtain a passport
- Possess a weapon
If you have a criminal record, it is important to contact an attorney who handles criminal record sealing who can help you with the sealing process.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sealing Convictions In New York
Our attorneys provide answers to some important questions below.
There are various options to seal criminal matters in New York.
- Upon acquittal, or dismissal for other reasons, such as an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACOD), the records are sealed, and the defendant’s fingerprints and photos are returned or destroyed pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law section 160.50.
- With a plea to a noncriminal offense, e.g., Disorderly Conduct or Harassment 2nd degree, sealing occurs pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law section 160.55. Sealing occurs unless the prosecution moves upon not less than five days’ notice to stop the sealing in the interests of justice.
- If a person under age 19 receives a youthful offender adjudication, the criminal records are made confidential.
- Where a defendant has completed judicial diversion, drug court or other judicially sanctioned drug treatment program and has completed the sentence, “conditional sealing” is available under Criminal Procedure Law section 160.58.
- A person with up to two convictions, but not more than one felony, may also apply for sealing after at least ten years have passed since sentence was imposed or, if incarceration, 10 years since release from jail or prison under Criminal Procedure Law section 160.59.
As of October 2017, individuals who have been convicted of an eligible offense can bring an application to have their records sealed as long as they have not been convicted of another crime for a period of ten (10) years since their conviction date or release from jail/prison, whichever happened later. As an example, if you were convicted in 2000, and released from prison in 2005, assuming you had no arrests after your release, you could bring a sealing application in 2015.
Most non-violent felonies and misdemeanors are eligible. Sex crimes, violent felonies and serious felonies are not eligible for sealing.
The following is a general list of crimes that may NOT be sealed under this law:
- Any sex offense within Penal Law §130 (Sex Offenses)
- Any offense within Penal Law §263 (Child Sex Offenses)
- Any felony within Penal Law §125 (Homicide Offenses)
- Any violent felony
- Any class A felony within the Penal Law
- Any felony within Penal Law §105 (underlying not eligible) (Conspiracy Offenses)
- Any “attempted” felony if the felony that was attempted is itself not eligible
- Any offense that requires you to register as a sex offender
To determine if your prior conviction qualifies for sealing, contact a lawyer who handles sealing applications.
An individual may be eligible if they meet the following criteria:
- Have not been convicted of a crime for a period of ten (10) years since their sentencing. If they were sentenced to jail/prison, ten (10) years since their release.
- Have two or less criminal convictions. Only one of these convictions can be a felony. If they have more than two (2) convictions, they may still be eligible if the convictions are related to the same incident.
- Have no pending criminal cases.
If you meet the criteria to have your criminal records sealed, a detailed application must be submitted with the reasons for requesting sealing. The application must contain a copy of a certificate of disposition for any offense for which the defendant was convicted. The application is filed in the court where the conviction for the most serious offense occurred. The application is also submitted to the district attorney’s offices where the conviction/convictions were obtained. The district attorney(s) must notify the court within forty-five days if there is any objection to the sealing application.
In considering an application to seal your criminal records the judge will consider many factors including:
- the amount of time that has elapsed since the last conviction;
- the circumstances and seriousness of the offense for which you were convicted;
- the circumstances and seriousness of any other offenses for which you were convicted;
- the character of the defendant, including any measures that the defendant has taken toward rehabilitation, such as participating in treatment programs, work, or schooling, and participating in community service or other volunteer programs;
- any statements made by the victim of the offense for which the defendant is seeking relief;
- the impact of sealing the defendant’s record upon his or her rehabilitation and upon his or her successful and productive reentry and reintegration into society;
- the impact of sealing the defendant’s record on public safety and upon the public’s confidence in and respect for the law.
Maybe. If you have only one prior drug conviction that was sealed under Criminal Procedure Law section 160.58, and now you seek to have a different conviction sealed, and the total convictions sealed amount to no more than one felony or no more than two misdemeanors, you may be eligible to obtain sealing of the additional conviction under Criminal Procedure Law section 160.59.
Maybe. For the purposes of this law, if multiple convictions are from the same incident, then they will be counted as only one conviction, even though they would be sealed.
For example, if you had a misdemeanor larceny in 2000 and in 2001you were convicted of two felonies, one for possession of a drug with intent to sell and one for selling it. Likely those two felonies are from the same event. Under this example, let’s also assume you were released from a prison sentence in 2005 and since then, you have never again been arrested.
Under this scenario the two felonies count as one because they occurred during the same incident. Therefore, the law sees you as having one (1) felony and one (1) misdemeanor. You would be eligible to have all three convictions sealed since it has been over ten (10) years and you have no pending criminal cases, resulting in a clean record.
When a sealing application is granted, the records on file with any court and the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services will be sealed. These records include all official records and papers related to the individual’s arrest, prosecution, and conviction, as well as any copies of these records. In addition, all fingerprints, booking photos, and DNA samples may be returned or destroyed.
No. New York does not recognize or have an expungement process. With sealing, the records still exist, they just are not accessible to the public.
Members of the public will not be able to see a conviction that is sealed. However, sealed records can be made available to the following:
- You or anyone you authorize to see the records.
- Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies acting within the scope of their law enforcement duties.
- Any agency that issues firearm licenses or pistol permits, as well as the criminal justice information services of the federal bureau of investigation for the purpose of responding to a background check regarding attempts to purchase or possess firearms.
- Any prospective employer of a police officer or peace officer.
Maybe. While a sealed record may make you eligible for a pistol permit, the inquiry regarding a pistol permit application is wide-ranging and may include youthful offender adjudications, dismissed charges, and sealed records. The licensing agency will also consider other factors when considering whether to grant a pistol permit application including your criminal history, your moral character and whether there is any history of mental illness. The bottom line is that a sealed record is not a guarantee you will be able to obtain a pistol permit.
Yes, so long as the formal sealing order has been granted. This is a major benefit to this law. Other than the situations above where you still must disclose your sealed record, all other employment situations allow you to affirmatively deny any prior convictions.
It depends. If you do not get arrested again, your records will be sealed permanently. However, if you do get re-arrested, you will lose the seal on your records.
No. The determination on whether to seal your criminal record is a discretionary decision made by a Judge. To apply for your record to be sealed, an application must be submitted to a Judge with notice to the agency that prosecuted your case. In New York State, that notice is most often made to the District Attorney’s Office in the County where your case was prosecuted. The District Attorney’s Office will have the right to consent, object, or defer to the Court with respect to the sealing application. If the district attorney opposes the application, the sentencing judge or county or supreme court must conduct a hearing in order to consider any evidence offered by either party that would aid the sentencing judge in his or her decision whether to seal your records.
To apply for your records to be sealed, you need a certificate of disposition from all courts that you are seeking your records to be sealed. If you cannot recall the court(s) where you were convicted, it is recommended you obtain a copy of your criminal history report. This can be obtained from the NYS Department of Criminal Justice Services. In addition, it is suggested that you obtain character reference letters that can attest to your good character and provide evidence of your rehabilitation since your conviction. Finally, if you have participated in any treatment programs, schooling, community service or other volunteer programs, any documents reflecting this is helpful.
A character reference letter should include the following:
- Writer’s name and occupation
- Nature of the writer’s relationship with the you
- Description of your character, moral strength/qualities, work ethic, and/or reputation, etc.
- Specific examples that support the writer’s description of you
If you do not qualify to have your records sealed, you may qualify for a certificate of relief from disabilities or a certificate of good conduct.
A certificate of relief from disabilities recognizes your rehabilitation since the time you committed a crime or offense. It is a certificate issued by a judge and is designed to relieve an “eligible offender” of any forfeiture or disability, or to remove any bar to the offender’s employment, automatically imposed by law by reason of his or her conviction of the specified crime or offense. An “eligible offender” is defined as a person who has been convicted of a crime or of an offense, but who has not been convicted more than once of a felony.
A certificate of good conduct, like a certificate of relief from disabilities relieves a person of any disability, or bar to his employment, automatically imposed by law by reason of a conviction for a crime or offense. What is different from a certificate of relief from disabilities is that you are eligible for the Certificate of Good Conduct even if you have been convicted of more than one felony. However, to obtain a certificate of good conduct you must wait:
- five years if the most serious felony on your criminal record is an A or B;
- three years if the most serious felony on your criminal record is a C, D or E felony; or
- one year if you only have misdemeanors on your criminal record.
The waiting period begins when you were last released from incarceration (prison or jail) or from the time of your last criminal conviction, whichever occurrence is last.
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