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.
Set forth in New York Criminal Procedure Law 160.59, the type, amount and nature of those criminal convictions that your sentencing judge can seal while broad is also limited at the same time. No, you are not eligible for a clean and blank slate. Instead, New York Criminal Procedure Law 160.59(2)(a) specifically allows a judge to seal up to two prior convictions. These eligible convictions can include only one felony. Therefore, if you had two felony convictions in New York, a judge, should he or she willingly do so, would be unable to seal both crimes. However, two misdemeanors or a misdemeanor and a felony would be eligible for a sealing. What if, however, you were charged with and pleaded to three or more crimes? Are you out of luck? Is there nothing your criminal lawyer can do on your behalf? Would a judge only be permitted to seal two of, for example, five crimes relating to the same incident? What benefit would that serve if your criminal record was still readily available to employers because some crimes remained open publicly?
Fortunately, New York Criminal Procedure Law 160.59(1)(a) addresses this problem and defines multiple eligible convictions as those “committed as part of the same criminal transaction.” Therefore, if you were charged with and convicted of Petit Larceny and Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property for shoplifting as well as Trespassing because you were in a blocked off area at the time of the theft, these crimes could be considered a single conviction as part of the same criminal transaction and event.
Keep in mind that not all misdemeanor or felonies are eligible convictions for sealing. Those crimes and convictions that demonstrate a significant danger to the public are not covered by New York Criminal Procedure Law 160.59. For example, if you are convicted of a crime relating to a sex offense and you are a registered sex offender, do not look to this law for sealing. Moreover, certain offenses defined as violent crimes, such as First Degree Assault or Second Degree Robbery, are also not included in this statute. Similarly, neither are the most serious offenses in the New York Penal Law categorized as class “A” felonies.
Even assuming your criminal convictions are eligible for sealing, the law mandates that you cannot apply for sealing until after ten years from either your conviction or release from prison. Additionally, you cannot have had further brushes with the law or have a current criminal case pending. Where you have pending criminal charges, even if unrelated to the conviction you seek to seal, the courts will not entertain your request for sealing. Simply, having new criminal charges and demonstrating that you cannot adhere to the law will leave you ineligible.
The sealing of your criminal convictions and record can mean the difference between pursuing your dreams, securing a raise, providing for your family and simply obtaining employment in a career that you were otherwise precluded. You’ve paid your debt to society. New York now gives you the chance to rise above your indiscretions. Be smart and seize the opportunity.
To learn more about New York sealing laws and “expungement”, including procedures, policy, eligibility and the practical impact of a sealing, review the materials found on this blog Saland Law’s New York Sealing Law and Expungement information page.
Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm representing clients in all criminal matters throughout the New York City region and individuals seeking to seal past criminal convictions anywhere in the State of New York. The founding New York criminal lawyers at Saland Law PC served as prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office before establishing the law practice.