Sealing vs. Expunging Your Criminal Record in New York: What are the Actual Implications and Results

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.

Putting aside the fact that your sealing lawyer can only apply or file a motion pursuant to NY CPL 160.59 if you have an eligible offense and can only secure the sealing of your criminal case upon your judge agreeing to do so, the benefits to your life and career going forward are comprehensive.

New York Crim. Pro. Law 160.59(8) outlines the statutory implications of sealing and the responsibilities of New York in doing so. Upon sealing by your sentencing judge, Supreme Court Judge or County Court Judge, “all official records and papers relating to the arrests, prosecutions, and convictions, including all duplicates…on file with the division of criminal justice services or any court shall be sealed on not made available to an person or private or public agency [subject to some exceptions].” Expansive? In one word, “indeed.”

It is of critical import to recognize that expungement, an act whereby everything is destroyed, is not the same as sealing. For the purposes of New York it is somewhat irrelevant because expungement is not available to a convict. However, because your record seals and is not expunged, fingerprints and mugshots remain available, as well as the criminal cases, to law enforcement. If, for example, your sealed criminal conviction is an element of a new crime years from now, neither the District Attorney nor the police will be prevented from obtaining and reviewing the case file or using it in a legal proceeding.

Providing greater detail as to who can circumvent sealing, New York CPL 160.59(9) specifically identifies five distinct people or agencies. First and foremost, the defendant him or herself has access to criminal records. Federal and State law enforcement, as well as some other qualified agencies including, for example, firearm licensing, Homeland Security, and others, have access to sealed criminal convictions and records within the scope of their law enforcement or related duties. Prospective employers for positions as police officers or peace officers can review your criminal past as well. The caveat with this last example is that you, as a job seeker, statutorily have a right to the records and to respond to or explain your criminal past without being summarily denied employment. Last, but not least, instant background checks as it relates to the purchase or possession of firearms will reveal the convictions as well.

Arguably, one of the greatest benefits of New York CRPL 160.59 is the fact that it edits section 296(16) of New York’s Executive Law. What does this mean in non-lawyer language? It is unlawful for “any person, agency, bureau, corporation or association, including the state and any political subdivision thereof, to make an inquiry about…or act upon adversely…any arrest or criminal accusation…not then pending against [you]…or by a conviction which is sealed pursuant to section 160.59 of the criminal procedure law, in connection with licensing, employment or providing credit or insurance.” To top it off, the law further prevents you from being required to share or divulge your sealed conviction.

Simply a short blog entry relating the advantages of a sealed criminal conviction, it is evident that benefits are tangible, real and potentially life altering. Expunged they are not, but a sealing resulting from your CPL 160.59 motion or application can stem the tsunami of shameful, career destroying, embarrassing and ruinous results of a criminal record that until now has been available for the world to see.

To better understand New York’s sealing statute, the meaning of sealing, how you can benefit from sealing, the eligibility of sealing and the legal process to motion the court of your conviction, review the links here, additional entries found on this blog and Saland Law PC’s New York Criminal Record Sealing Information Page.

A New York criminal defense and conviction sealing law firm, the founding criminal defense attorneys at Saland Law PC served as Assistant District Attorneys in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. The New York criminal record sealing lawyers at Saland Law PC represent clients in all CPL 160.59 applications and motions throughout the entire State of New York.

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