New York allows certain criminal records to be sealed, but to seal a criminal record, you’ll need help from a Nassau County criminal defense attorney. When a record has been sealed, the general public cannot access it, but some state and federal agencies may still be able to view it.
In New York, criminal convictions often have serious negative consequences. Even a misdemeanor conviction gives you a permanent criminal record and may impair your ability to find housing or work or receive public benefits.
However, after your criminal record has been sealed, the general public cannot see it, and in most situations, you may legally tell a prospective employer – or anyone else – that you were not placed under arrest or convicted for a crime.
Which criminal records can be sealed in the State of New York? What does the process entail? And how will a defense lawyer help you have a criminal record sealed? If you’ll keep reading, you will learn those answers in this brief introduction to sealing criminal records in New York.
What Records Can Be Sealed?
First, you should understand that New York maintains four types of legal records that, in many circumstances, may be sealed: arrest records, non-criminal conviction records, juvenile criminal conviction records, and adult criminal conviction records.
If you have an arrest record in New York, it is automatically sealed if you were never convicted for the charge or charges and the case was dropped, dismissed, vacated, or if the conviction was set aside.
How Are Non-Criminal Conviction Records Sealed?
If you received a conviction for a non-criminal violation (such as disorderly conduct or a traffic infraction) prior to November 1, 1991, you can probably have the record sealed with an attorney’s help.
Except for driving while ability impaired (DWAI), loitering for the purpose of engaging in prostitution, and harassment in the second degree involving domestic violence, convictions after November 1, 1991 for non-criminal violations and traffic infractions are automatically sealed after one year unless there is a “do not seal” order.
How Are Juvenile Records Sealed?
If you need to have a juvenile record sealed in New York, the steps you take will depend on your age and how your case was adjudicated. If you were convicted as a “juvenile offender” between the ages of 16 and 18, your record cannot be sealed.
If you were convicted of a crime that was not a felony as a “juvenile delinquent” between the ages of 7 and 16, that record is automatically sealed, although it can still be accessed by police agencies and prosecutors.
If you were convicted for a felony as a juvenile delinquent, you may file a sealing motion with your lawyer’s help after your 16th birthday. If that motion is denied, you may try again after one year. The process is the same for those convicted as “youthful offenders” from ages 16 to 18.
How Are Adult Criminal Conviction Records Sealed?
In some states, expungement completely erases a conviction record as if it never existed, but New York typically doesn’t allow the expungement of adult criminal conviction records. An exception is made for some convictions for possession of marijuana.
Instead of expungement, New York allows some criminal records to be sealed in some cases. If you have one or two misdemeanor convictions, one felony conviction, or one felony and one misdemeanor conviction, you may be able to have the conviction or convictions sealed.
To have a conviction record sealed, you cannot have any new criminal convictions or have any current criminal charges pending. Ask a Long Island defense attorney to help you with the paperwork and guide you through the process.
What Else is Required to Have a Conviction Record Sealed?
You qualify to have your conviction or convictions sealed if you’ve been crime-free for ten or more years since your conviction or release. The ten-year waiting period begins on the date of the conviction, or if you were sentenced to time in custody, the date of your release.
With more than two convictions, you may qualify for sealing only if the convictions are related. For example, if you were convicted of multiple crimes committed in the same incident, such as an assault during a robbery, a court has the discretion to treat the several convictions as one case.
Marijuana possession convictions that have been automatically expunged are not counted toward someone’s total number of convictions. Other marijuana-related criminal convictions are not automatically expunged and may need to be sealed.
If you are not a United States citizen, you should know that federal immigration authorities will still have access to your conviction records after those records have been sealed.
What Convictions Cannot be Sealed?
Records for the following convictions, among others, cannot be sealed in the State of New York:
- most sex crime convictions (including all sex crimes requiring sex offender registration)
- convictions for crimes defined as crimes of violence (even if no violence occurred)
- convictions for Class A felonies (the most serious crimes under New York law)
If you are seeking to have any criminal record sealed in New York, you must have help from a Nassau County defense lawyer. The paperwork is complicated, and you’ll need to compile a number of documents. A defense attorney’s insights and guidance will be imperative.
What Happens When You Seek to Seal a Conviction Record?
The judge who sentenced you – or a judge on the same court – will consider your request. The judge will deny the request if you fail to meet all of the conditions required for sealing your record.
If the judge doesn’t reject your request, but the prosecutor files an objection to it, the court will schedule a hearing to consider the request. If the prosecutor offers no objection to sealing your record, the judge may conduct a hearing or may simply grant the request.
What Factors are Considered by the Court?
In deciding whether to seal your record, the courts in New York take these factors into account:
- the amount of time since your last conviction and the details of that conviction and of any other criminal convictions
- self-improvement efforts such as participating in treatment or counseling, finding and maintaining employment, attending school, or taking part in community service
- statements by the victim of the crime for which you were convicted
- the impact that sealing your record will have upon your rehabilitation and the impact it will have on public safety
If you’ve had trouble finding housing or work, a criminal record may be the reason. If you need to have a criminal record sealed in New York, or if you simply need to learn more about the record-sealing process in this state, contact a Nassau County criminal defense attorney promptly.