Criminal records impact just about every facet of life. People with records in New York City will find that they affect the ability to obtain work in certain fields, play a role in determining eligibility for credit, and in general limit some opportunities. If you’ve been convicted of a crime, it pays to know what can be done to expunge or seal those records. Since sealing procedures changed during calendar year 2017, you will need help from a criminal lawyer to know if anything can be done, and how you can put the process in motion.
Expungement and Record Sealing in New York City
Unlike other states, there are no provisions for expungement. This process is essentially a permanent removal of charges and convictions of specified criminal actions from your criminal record. For all practical intents and purposes, it’s as if the court actions never occurred.
The state of New York does have provisions for what is known as record sealing. In keeping with those provisions, New York City included amendments to their own processes as part of the 2017-2018 city budget. Specifically, those amendments impacted the contents of the Criminal Procedure Law (§ 160.59) and Human Rights Law.
What Crimes May Be Sealed?
At the discretion of the court, it’s possible to seal up to two convictions. One of those convictions may be one of a limited number of felonies. There are some felonies that cannot be sealed. The provisions in § 160.59 do not allow for sealing violent felonies, Class A felonies, and most sex offenses.
There are grounds for sealing multiple convictions, provided the court finds there is a logical connection between them. Specifically, the current laws specify that crimes that are committed as part of the same criminal transaction may be considered as a single conviction for the purposes of sealing. This is found in § 160.59(1)(a) of the Criminal Procedure Law.
What Does Sealing Do?
While sealing does not eliminate convictions or actions from the record, it does make them unavailable for access in most cases. The convicted party and the legal counsel continue to have access. The court also retains access.
Sealed records do not show up in most routine criminal checks for employment. However, if the position requires carrying a firearm, a background check will will reveal all criminal convictions. That includes any that have been sealed.
Who is Eligible for Sealing?
People who are acquitted or had the conviction set aside may petition for sealing the records. If the charges are vacated, dropped, or sealed, it’s also possible to have the records sealed. In many instances, the court will order the sealing at the end of the court action. The only exception would be if the prosecuting attorney convinces the court that sealing is not warranted, or the court makes that determination directly.
Noncriminal convictions such as traffic offenses or disorderly conduct convictions may also be sealed. Drug offenses that do not involve violent crimes are also eligible for sealing. A number of misdemeanors may also be sealed, provided they meet the current requirements set by law.
What’s the Process Like?
If the court does not order the sealing at the conclusion of as court action, a petition must be filed. The petition must contain reasons for seeking the sealing. In turn, the court weighs those reasons, considers the severity of the petitioner’s actions and the nature of the crime, and the general reputation and character of the convicted party. If there are other convictions not included in the petition, those rulings will factor into the court’s decision to seal or to deny the sealing. Statements from victims as well as the time that’s elapsed since the conviction are also considered.
A petition related to a conviction in New York City must be filed within the city jurisdiction where the event took place. When the petitioner is seeking to seal two convictions that took place in different jurisdictions, current procedures require that the petition be filed in the jurisdiction where the most severe activity occurred.
Preparing the petition is something that should be done by a criminal lawyer. The legal counsel can explain relevant points of law to the client, make sure the petition complies with all current procedures, and includes all the information the court requires to consider the request. Keep in mind that while the general public and many agencies will no longer have access to the court records, law enforcement agencies and selected other agencies identified as qualified will still be able to access those records.