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Am I Eligible to Seal My Record?

It can be tough to get back on track following a criminal conviction, especially because your record will follow you everywhere you go, such as your employment prospects. In today’s blog, we discuss New York’s record sealing eligibility requirements and the factors that will impact a court’s decision to seal a person’s record.

Record Sealing Eligibility

Unlike other states, New York does not allow individuals to expunge their criminal records, which would completely remove the crime and conviction from a criminal record. Instead, the state allows people to seal some criminal records under certain conditions.

A new record sealing law that became effective on October 7, 2017 expanded the eligibility for record sealing. In general, only two criminal convictions may be sealed, and only one of them can be a felony. Note that if you were convicted of several crimes for the same criminal act, they may be treated as a single conviction for sealing purposes.

Convictions that can be sealed in New York include:

  • Noncriminal offenses – e.g. traffic infractions or disorderly conduct violations.
  • Drug convictions – eligible to be sealed upon successful completion of an approved treatment program; does not apply to defendants who have successfully completed a drug diversion mandate and have had their cases dismissed.
  • Other misdemeanor or felony convictions – those with no more than 2 convictions—only 1 of which may be a felony—can petition to have their record sealed after 10 years, counted from the date of the imposition of the sentence or from custody release date if you were incarcerated.
  • DNA records – reversed, vacated, or pardoned convictions related to DNA evidence may be removed from the state DNA database.

Note that not all crimes can be sealed, and certain convictions, such as those related to crimes that demonstrate a significant danger to the public, are not eligible for sealing. The following convictions are crimes ineligible for record sealing:

  • Most sex offenses, including those that require sex offender registration
  • Certain offenses defined as “violent crimes,” even if no actual violence was involved
  • Crimes categorized as Class A felonies, the most serious crimes under New York law

In the case that your offense is eligible to be sealed, you must also meet the following criteria to apply for a record sealing:

  • at least 10 years must have passed between your sentencing or release from prison (whichever is later) and your sealing application to the court;
  • you have no current or pending criminal charges;
  • you have no recent criminal convictions;
  • you have not already obtained sealing of the maximum number of convictions allowed (2); and
  • you have 2 convictions or less on your criminal record (no more than 2 misdemeanor convictions or 1 felony and 1 misdemeanor conviction).

The Juvenile Exception

If you were arrested while you were a minor at the time of your sentencing (you were sentenced as a juvenile delinquent), your criminal record is automatically sealed to the public and is only available to certain people in the criminal justice system, such as prosecutors and judges. Once you turn 16 years old, you may be able to seal your juvenile delinquency records to these particular prosecutors and judges, under certain circumstances. Note that while your records may be sealed if you are convicted as a Youthful Offender, your records cannot be sealed if you are convicted as a Juvenile Offender, unless the judge grants you Youthful Offender status.

Factors Considered by the Court

In deciding whether to seal your record, the court will consider the following factors:

  • the time that has elapsed since your last conviction;
  • the circumstances and seriousness of the offense for which you are seeking relief;
  • the circumstances and seriousness of any other offenses for which you were convicted;
  • your character, including any measures you have taken toward rehabilitation, such as participating in treatment programs, employment, schooling, or participating in community service or other volunteer programs;
  • any statements made by the alleged victim of the offense for which you are seeking relief;
  • the impact that sealing your record will have upon your rehabilitation and your successful and productive reintegration into society; and
  • the impact of sealing your record on public.

Effects of a Sealed Record

If the sentencing judge grants your application and your record is sealed, all material related to your case or conviction will be destroyed, including fingerprints, palm cards, mug-shots and arrest photos, and DNA samples.

Your sealed criminal records cannot be viewed by the public, police, or prosecutors, and there will only be a few limited ways your sealed records may be viewed by specific people, such as:

  • any person that you designate;
  • an employer if you apply for job that involves carrying a firearm;
  • your parole officer if you are arrested while on probation or parole; and
  • law enforcement or a prosecutor by a court order signed by a judge (mainly occurs if you are arrested for a new crime that in some way is related to the sealed crime).

Contact an Experienced Attorney for Legal Guidance

If you seek to seal your criminal record, contact an attorney at Collins Gann McCloskey & Barry PLLC immediately for effective legal counsel. Our attorneys can evaluate the facts of your conviction and determine whether you are eligible for record sealing and how to proceed with the application process. A sealed record could significantly aid your successful reentry into society, and it could remove many bars to future opportunities as you get a fresh start to your life.

Contact us at Collins Gann McCloskey & Barry PLLC for a free initial consultation today.