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.
Although this blog entry will not address who is eligible for sealing, the time frame you must wait before seeking a sealing of a criminal conviction, or other relevant factors as this has been addressed in other Saland Law blog entries and on the Saland Law PC website, it will briefly address the procedure to potentially have your criminal record sealed. In short, this entry will provide you with the proper foundation to discuss your case with your criminal lawyer and New York conviction sealing attorney.
As a preliminary matter, it is of no consequence if you currently reside in New York, the county where you pleaded or were found guilty after trial. All applications for sealing in New York must be made to the judge and court where you were sentenced. In other words, if you were convicted in Westchester County Court, located in White Plains, New York, then your attorney would file a motion for sealing in that court. Similarly, if you were convicted in Poughkeepsie Town Court or Brooklyn Criminal Court, the judges sitting in those courts would review your submissions and make the determination whether or not to would seal your criminal conviction(s). In the event that you are seeking to have multiple criminal convictions sealed, New York Criminal Procedure Law 160.59(2)(a) does not dictate that you must skip around to multiple courts. Instead, your sealing lawyer will submit his or her motion to the court where the highest degree or class crime occurred. If the crimes are of the same class, meaning, for example, two class “A” misdemeanors, then the location of the most recent conviction is where your attorney would file a motion for sealing and serve the same on the local District Attorney.
Identifying the court that has jurisdiction over your potential sealing is merely a small piece of the sealing and pseudo-expungement puzzle. Simply, who are you and why are you deserving of sealing? New York Criminal Procedure Law 160.59(a)(b)(v) mandates that you provide not merely some background, but a sworn statement setting forth the basis of your application. Keep in mind that this request is a one time opportunity. Your motion must be accurate, compelling and written in a professional manner as to maximize the likelihood of your success.
Even if you subjectively believe you are a good candidate for sealing, the People of the State of New York, aka, prosecutors, have the opportunity to be heard and even oppose your request. While certain crimes are not eligible, as discussed in other blog entries and on the New-York-Lawyers.org New York Sealing Law information page, the District Attorney must be served with your motion and has 45 days to reply and object to your request. Because of this, it is critically important to be extremely thorough in your application to best vet all the potential pitfalls you may face. Even after the DA responds, the judge can then have a hearing before making a final determination as to sealing.
Again, the sealing of your criminal record may be a once in a life time opportunity that can change the trajectory of your future and that of your family. Is it expungement? No. New York does not provide for the expungement of your criminal record. However, sealing your record from the prying eyes of most public and private entities and employers is a benefit that you would be foolish not to pursue.
It is your future. Seize it.
To educated yourself about New York sealing laws as it relates to past criminal convictions from eligibility to effect, review this blog as well as Saland Law PC’s New York Sealing Law information page.
Founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors, the New York criminal defense attorneys at Saland Law PC represent clients throughout the State of New York for conviction sealing.