Can I Have My Criminal Record Sealed in New York?
For decades, New York was among the most restrictive states in the country concerning post-conviction relief. For the vast majority of individuals convicted of a felony in the State Supreme Court system, the only form of relief available was a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities or a Certificate of Good Conduct. While these documents were, and continue to be, useful in employment and educational situations, they do not shield a prospective employer or admissions department from discovering a conviction, no matter how long ago or at what stage in a person's life the criminal case took place.
Until recently, the criteria for having a conviction sealed was found exclusively in Criminal Procedure Law § 160.58, which specified that in order for a conviction to qualify for sealing, the individual was mandated to participate in a judicial diversion or treatment program as part of the sentence for that case, and completed both the program and any other requirements of the sentence (jail, probation, restitution, etc.) without any issues. The practical application of this statute resulted in only a handful of drug cases meeting the criteria as most cases are not appropriate for diversion or treatment. Under the previous framework a person would not be eligible to get their case sealed if a treatment program was not part of the sentence, even if they completed a voluntary program afterwards.
Fortunately, New York has finally passed legislation which recognizes that one mistake, often committed while an individual is young and does not fully comprehend the potential consequences, should not cause that person to be permanently disadvantaged. The updated sealing statute recognizes that people convicted of a felony do not need to continuously be punished long after their sentence is completed, and encourages individuals to continue pursuing a law-abiding life with the reward of sealing their conviction if they continue to do so.
Under Criminal Procedure Law § 160.59 (which will become effective October 2017) , an individual may apply to seal up to two total (but no more than one felony) convictions. Unlike the previous sealing statute, which specified a narrow criteria of eligible offenses, the new statute applies to all felony convictions with a carve out for certain ineligible types. The following convictions are ineligible to be sealed:
- Class A felonies;
- Sex Crimes: meaning any conviction under Penal §§ 135 or 263, or any offense for which the individual must register as a sex offender;
- Violent Felony Offenses: a listing of these offenses is found in Penal Law § 70.02; and
- Any Conspiracy to Commit or Attempt to Commit any of the above ineligible offenses.
If the conviction does not fall within the above categories, then an individual may apply to have it sealed if the following conditions are met:
- There have been no convictions since the case which the individual is seeking to have sealed and there are no open cases or pending charges against the individual;
- At least ten years have passed since either the conviction date or the individual's release from incarceration (if jail time was imposed); and
- The individual has not been convicted of two or more felonies, or more than two total crimes.
If you, or a loved one, has a ten year old conviction which meets the criteria listed above and would like it sealed, the first step is to call a top New York Sealing attorney. A felony conviction dramatically reduces a person's ability to get a job, attend school, or acquire a professional license, regardless of how dated the case is. Sealing these convictions can result in opportunities which a person never imagined they would have.
At the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman, our attorneys have already achieved sealing on countless cases, as our attorneys are experts at researching and presenting the strongest arguments to obtain relief. Call us today at (212) 581-1001 for a free evaluation.