Can I have my criminal record sealed in New York? Are convictions eligible for sealing in New York? Whatever your question may be, after asking whether or not you are eligible to have your criminal record sealed and what standard your sentencing judge will follow when deciding whether he or she will seal your criminal record (as noted repeatedly, this is different than expunging your criminal record, but the most similar pathway New York), the follow up questions is quite obvious. “What is the impact and effect of sealing a criminal conviction if it is not exactly the same thing as expungement?” Good question. I couldn’t have asked it any better if I wrote it out myself.
How do I get my criminal conviction expunged in New York? Is anyone eligible for expungement of their criminal history? For that matter, does New York expunge past criminal convictions? The short answer to these very good questions is that while New York will start sealing certain criminal convictions in October 2017, New York does not expunge. Period (but read on).
Not all is lost, however, and quite far from it. Thanks to a very generous and fairly progressive policy, while not a vacating and removal of your criminal conviction, the hardships you endured with a decade old or more non-violent felony can be sealed from eyes of employers and the public providing you with a path to the redemption you have waited so long to embrace.
“Violence” and “violent” are both ugly words. In the New York Penal Law and New York Criminal Procedure Law, offenses that can cause catastrophic injuries, traumatic physical and emotional wounds and even death are designated as violent crimes. While each one of us may have a subjective view of what violent means in the context our respective lives, New York Criminal Procedure Law 70.02 specifically defines and differentiates New York violent crimes from all other offenses. The relevancy as to what is a violent crime and what is an “ordinary” offense is critical to any criminal case as well as to how a criminal defense attorney manages his representation of a client. As a preliminary matter, sentencing for violent crimes differ from other offenses and for those who want to pursue the sealing of their criminal record for up to two convictions in accordance with New York Criminal Procedure Law 160.59, any violent offense precludes such a remedy.
Whether you want to lead off with the good or the bad, the fact remains that when you are looking to either expunge or seal your criminal convictions from your record in New York, the reality is exactly the same. The good news is that while sealing a violation and non-criminal plea or conviction has always been available, neither the expungement or sealing of criminal convictions were attainable to anyone with a criminal record in the State of New York. Fortunately, some, but not all of that, has changed with the passage of New York Criminal Procedure Law 160.59. While your sealing attorney can likely provide more insight into the differences and benefits of expungement and sealing, the former is not the type of relief that New York courts offer. Despite this, New York’s conviction sealing statute and law is beyond valuable to any person hoping to minimize the exposure of their criminal history and prevent most private and public employers and agencies from finding their old arrest.
With the passage of New York Criminal Procedure Law 160.59, there have been countless questions by those convicted of crimes as to what criminal convictions seal, how many criminal convictions can seal and whether the results of a sealing are the equivalent or same as expunging a criminal record. Fortunately, as you can discuss in greater detail with a New York sealing lawyer, the answer to these questions, although somewhat confusing, are clear. This entry will not address the multiple sub sections of CPL 160.59, but it will identify specifically how many convictions you can seek to have “washed” from your public record. For greater analysis on the other issues identified above as well as the intricacies of New York’s sealing law, this blog and the New York Sealing Information Page has much more information for review.
Some may choose to call it expungement, but to call is such would be somewhat misleading. As you have likely asked family members, friends and your criminal lawyer in New York, “How can I get my criminal conviction expunged?” Maybe you voiced it differently and merely wondered not how, but if you can have your criminal record sealed, but the question and concern was the same. I made a mistake. I took responsibility. I have led a law-abiding life. I should not be precluded from pursuing certain careers and be branded as a “criminal” for the rest of my life. Fortunately, New York Criminal Procedure Law 160.59 is the answer to, or more accurately the vehicle to secure, sealing of old criminal cases and convictions in New York State whether they arose from drugs in Albany, a stolen credit card in Queens, a bare knuckles bar fight in Brooklyn or a larceny in Westchester County.
As of the drafting of this blog entry, if you asked any New York expungement or sealing lawyer whether or not the legislature or the courts have a mechanism, law or process to either expunge or seal criminal convictions and criminal records, the quick and easy answer would be “no.” Starting in October 2017, however, all of this will change for the benefit of just about anyone convicted of a crime in New York. With the passage of New York Criminal Procedure Law 160.59, often referred to as either NY CPL 160.59 or NY Crim. Pro. Law 160.59, New York State will allow just about any person convicted of one or two misdemeanors to apply for record and conviction sealing. What you should notice about the sentence that led into this one are the words uses. Simply, no everyone, or better stated, not every criminal offense, will be eligible for sealing. Equally important, sealing and expunging are two unique means to hide or remove a criminal conviction or record. While sealing is potentially life altering to a convict from the smallest to most serious misdemeanor, vacating a criminal conviction through expungement is not available in New York. Do not worry, however, practically speaking, if you put forth your most diligent and compelling efforts, your sealing lawyer may still be able to provide you what has eluded your for a decade or far longer.
Can I get my misdemeanor conviction sealed from years ago? Can I get my criminal record for a felony expunged? Fortunately, within reason, both New York sealing attorneys and criminal lawyers familiar with expungement rules in New York can now tell those who have paid their dues to society for their criminal past can hold their heads up high and look towards a bright future. While New York will not expunge your criminal record regardless of the nature of your past offenses or crimes, commencing in October 2017, the New York State legislature has now given judges the ability, should they choose to exercise their legal right, to seal up to two prior criminal convictions. Yes, you read that right. In fact, not only can the court seal your criminal cases, but employers in most cases will even be forbidden to make inquiries about your sealed past.
The old adage of “no news is good news” does not hold water when it comes to New York’s arcane and outdated criminal record expungement and sealing laws. Much to the frustration of many criminal defense attorneys who have witnessed firsthand good people getting caught up in the criminal justice system, the answer to a client’s request about the sealing and expungement of their criminal past was always the same (“was” being the relevant word). In fact, unlike many states, New York doesn’t expunge criminal records whether your conviction stemmed from a misdemeanor Third Degree Assault arrest as a twenty year old college student in Buffalo or White Plains or from a felony Fourth Degree Grand Larceny conviction you were shackled with after making an epic mistake charging $2,500 worth of personal items on the company credit card of your employer in Manhattan or Brooklyn. Whether you have long since paid for your drug crime or shown that you are an asset to society despite your conviction for a forgery related offense, New York legislators have been unsympathetic to your plight up until now. Fortunately, however, your future is about to change and drastically so.
New York City has good reason to enact laws to protect is residents, commuters and tourists. On any given day there are millions of people walking the streets and thousands of cars driving up and down the avenues. However, merely because the intent of the City Council is genuine does not mean that the laws it passes are constitutional, vague, legal or simply “OK.” An example of this is found in NYC Administrative Code 19-190. This “Right of Way” or “Failure to Yield” law has a great purpose, but its application and its legal foundation may have issues. At the time of this blog the Court of Appeals has not weighed in on the issues, but many New York City courts and judges, including those in Manhattan and Queens, have addresses what appears to be some glaring problems. While this blog entry by no means addresses the decision of the highest court in New York as no review has occurred, the following is recent decision from Queens County tied to the dismissal of AC 19-190.