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.
As touched on throughout numerous blog entries and addressed in greater substance on Saland Law PC’s New York Sealing Law information page, beginning in October 2017 you can file a motion with your sentencing court (or the County / Supreme Court) for the sealing of up to two criminal convictions that are at least ten years old and consist of no more than one non-violent or sexual offense related felony. Although there are other factors and intricacies to the law not mentioned in this one paragraph review and can be further examined with your own New York sealing lawyer or expungement attorney, the following addresses the practical value of Criminal Procedure Law160.59. That is, what is the impact and effect of sealing if the court grants you this relief?
Like everything in the legal system, for every rule there is often a subsection that changes that rule, a competing rule or an exception to the same. NY CPL 160.59(8) is no exception to that exception (even if “exception” is repeatedly typed). The general rule, however is that every “official record and paper relating to the arrests, prosecutions, and convictions, including all duplicates and copies thereof, on file with the division of criminal justice services or any court shall be sealed and not made available to any person or public or private agency.” That said, law enforcement, such as the NYPD and District Attorney, will have access to these records. Additionally, some other agencies will have access as well. Overall, however, Criminal Procedure Law 160.59 gives you protection from both public and private employers and agencies like never before.
The difference between sealing in New York State and expungement, the latter not being something that New York State permits, extends beyond what is available to the public and private sector. While sealing provides enormous relief for many people seeking employment and pursuing certain careers because the criminal conviction or convictions are “hidden,” law enforcement does not destroy fingerprints. Moreover, because your case is neither dismissed nor expunged, if it is relevant to a new arrest or crime after the sealing then the District Attorney can still access and use this past conviction and records. If, for example, you had a prior criminal conviction and you possessed certain weapons that allowed a prosecutor to bump up a misdemeanor to a felony, merely because the prior crime was sealed would not prevent the District Attorney from using that conviction as a means to elevate your new crime from a misdemeanor to a felony. A free pass it is not, but New York’s sealing law provides a wiping or cleaning of up to two criminal convictions from your rap sheet and criminal history.
Arguably, the greatest and most significant effect of New York’s sealing law is found in a related statute. The legislature changed New York State Human Rights Law, more specifically New York Executive Law 296(16), to prohibit employers in both the private and public sector, from inquiring about a sealed conviction. Further, you cannot be denied a job, license or similar position or certification because of your sealed case. Simply, the effect of sealing is unparalleled to anything the State of New York has implemented just short of expungement.
While nothing is perfect, New York’s sealing law that takes effect in October 2017 provides those convicted of certain crimes the opportunity to move beyond their respective criminal history. The legislature crafted the law because they likely recognized that once a person has proven they have paid their dues and has made great strides, a criminal conviction should not prevent them from providing for themselves and their families to the fullest extent that they can.
Don’t ignore this opportunity and allow your criminal record to control your life.
To see whether you can avail yourself of New York Criminal Procedure Law 160.59, understand the parameters of the statute and ultimately educate yourself to retain the right New York sealing attorney, review this blog as well as Saland Law PC’s New York Sealing Law information page for easy to read, yet content rich, information on sealing.
Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors. The New York criminal lawyers at Saland Law PC represent clients in sealing motions pursuant to New York Crim. Procedure Law 160.59 throughout the State of New York.