There are few crimes more embarrassing in terms of both arrest and conviction than those related to prostitution. No, nobody says growing up they want to solicit and patronize prostitutes just as young boys and girls don’t aspire to become prostitutes when they grow into women and men. Simply, good people make poor choices or find themselves in situations that leaves them feeling desperate or hopeless. While this blog entry is not meant to serve as a justification nor condemnation of those convicted of New York Penal Law section 230.00 and 230.04 respectively, it simply addresses a very reasonable and pertinent question. Can my conviction for PL 230.00 or my conviction for PL 230.04 be sealed to either the public or private entities? Commencing on October 2017 the answer to both of these questions is a very clear, albeit a time consuming and detailed path, yes. With the passage of New York Criminal Procedure Law 160.59, the court that sentenced you upon your conviction to either Prostitution or Third Degree Patronizing a Prostitute now has the authority and discretion to seal, although not expunge, your criminal conviction and case.
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.
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.
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.
In the State of New York a violation is defined as an offense for which a defendant can be sentenced to no more than 15 days in jail. Disorderly Conduct (New York Penal Law 240.20) is a violation of the New York State Penal Code. A Disorderly Conduct conviction can have wide ranging consequences for most people ranging from community service and fees to incarceration (not likely in most scenarios) and damage to a professional career. Disorderly conduct should only be charged when you act in a way that provokes public disorder. Furthermore, you can be charged with Disorderly Conduct as long as you intend to cause “public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creat[e] a risk thereof.” Therefore, if you do not provoke or intend to provoke, public disorder then a Disorderly Conduct arrest should not stand on its own two feet. This was exemplified in the case of People v. Zuckerberg.
Sometimes, when we are frustrated, we tend to get “cute” or “fresh.” While talking back to your mother or a friend may get you further into an argument, doing the same with the police can make a bad situation exponentially worse. Its not just a bad attitude that can aggravate a legal situation, but should you give false information to the police in New York upon your arrest, you may find yourself charged with False Personation. A “B” misdemeanor crime punishable by jail, False Personation (New York Penal Law 190.23) is a potentially serious offense.
Fortunately, as serious a crime that False Personation may be, not all bogus answers can lead to a criminal prosecution. You are guilty of NY PL 190.23 if you are advised of the consequences of misrepresenting your name, date of birth or address to the police, you actually misrepresent that information with the intent of preventing the officer from ultimately obtaining the accurate information. While the type of behavior that is criminal seems fairly straight forward, a recent New York Criminal Court decision out of Brooklyn sheds some light on the issue of how prosecutors prove this crime.
In criminal trials in the state of New York, the People (a.k.a. the prosecution) bear the burden of proving that the defendant has committed the charged offense beyond any reasonable doubt. Obviously, the role of the criminal lawyer in New York is to controvert, challenge and poke holes in People’s case. Many times in criminal trials the strongest evidence of guilt in the prosecution’s arsenal is the direct testimony of a witness. Therefore the District Attorney’s Offices, whether it be one of the five borough/counties– Manhattan, Brooklyn/Kings, the Bronx, Staten Island/Richmond, or Queens– or surrounding counties– Westchester or Rockland — must be empowered to compel these “material witnesses” to testify. A subpoena is that legal tool, which empowers the State of New York to compel testimony by a witness. Of course, even if you’ve been subpoenaed to testify in a New York criminal trial, you don’t necessarily have to testify.
Most of us don’t need a NY criminal defense attorney to tell us what the Fifth Amendment is, but many times people do confuse the scope of the Amendment. The Fifth Amendment only protects individuals from self-incrimination. That is, if your boyfriend was charged with burglary and you are subpoenaed to testify as to his whereabouts on the night in question, but you had nothing to do with the burglary and your truthful testimony will in no way incriminate (admit guilt of a crime) you, then you can potentially be compelled to testify.
As a New York criminal attorney who works on behalf of clients in the criminal trial courts throughout the New York City area–from the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan into the counties of Westchester and Rockland– I pick up on the strategies employed by the respective District Attorney’s Office. Equally important, having served as a Manhattan prosecutor for over seven years, I witnessed first hand Assistant District Attorneys pursuing these strategies. As I also saw them, I’ve noticed a trend amongst Assistant District Attorney’s trying to corroborate the allegations in a complaint and further cases even where a complainant is not cooperative. A recent case, The People v. Joseph Valentine, 2009KN083896, NYLJ 1202516492758, at *1(Criml, KI. Decided September 8, 2011) is a great illustration of this trend and thus is a case worth examining in this blog.
Mr. Valentine was charged with Assault in the Third Degree pursuant to NY PL 120.00(1), Menacing in the Third Degree pursuant to NY PL 120.15, Criminal Obstruction of Breathing or Blood Circulation (choking) pursuant to NY PL 121.11(a), and Harassment in the Second Degree pursuant to NY PL 240.26(1). The arresting officer had responded to a “radio-run” (911 call) for a family dispute. The complainant, Ms. Ingram, who is the defendant’s girlfriend, was outside of the house hysterically crying and explained to the officer that Mr. Valentine had choked her.