Expungement and Sealing in New York
Having an arrest record can severely damage your reputation, career, professional
license, immigration status, ability to travel internationally, and life
in general. Background checks are becoming increasingly more popular.
They are usually standard procedure when applying for a job or housing.
Maintaining a clean record is of the utmost importance. For this reason,
you and your attorney should be aware of how New York's sealing statues
work after your arrest but before you resolve things in court.
In New York State there is no statute called "expungement," but
getting your arrest photograph and fingerprints destroyed or returned
and other records sealed under
CPL 160.50 is largely the same thing. The qualifying records not destroyed or returned
to you under
CPL 160.50 are sealed meaning that the record still exists and is not physically
destroyed, but it is hidden from public inspection. Once your
CPL 160.50 rights are properly enforced, the related fingerprint and palm-print cards,
arrest photos, DNA samples, and all official records are destroyed, returned,
or sealed (with the exception of digital fingerprints that may be retained
if the person already has a fingerprint on file that has not been sealed).
New York allows sealing of certain violations, traffic infractions, and
juvenile offenses. Misdemeanor and felony
convictions cannot be sealed in New York.
For this reason, it’s important to retain an attorney early in the
criminal process in order to explore the possibility of avoiding a misdemeanor
or felony conviction.
In New York, sealing can take place pursuant to two different statutes:
CPL § 160.50 or
CPL § 160.55. While the result is similar under both laws, there is an important difference.
Whether your case is sealed under
CPL 160.50 or
160.55 will depend upon how the case was resolved. If your case was dismissed
or you were acquitted then your case will be sealed under
CPL 160.50. If your case was resolved with a non-criminal outcome, such as a plea
to an infraction or violation, then your case will be sealed under
160.55. While both laws require the sealing of the arrest, photos, palm-prints,
fingerprints, and arrest reports, only
CPL 160.50 seals the court file. Therefore sealing under
CPL 160.50 is more comprehensive.
Anyone whose criminal history record cannot be sealed can still get help
by obtaining a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities or a Certificate
of Good Conduct. These certificates are valuable option for lifting certain
employment and licensing restrictions, but the criminal record will still
be able to be seen.
Sealing your record does not mean it will be impossible for someone to
find out about your past but it can greatly reduce the risk of this happening.
Whether your case was covered in the media, the length that it was open
to the public (not sealed), and whether or not your case is sealed under
CPL 160.50 or
160.55 will affect the likelihood that others could learn about it in the future.
In conclusion it is possible to get criminal / arrest records essentially
expunged in New York to the extent that you can get your records destroyed,
returned, or sealed under
CPL 160.50. Expungement, generally, is the process of legally destroying or sealing
records or files of your arrest and/or conviction held by the police,
court, District Attorney, State, or Federal government. These records
can include your arrest photograph (mugshot), fingerprints, arrest report,
and other embarrassing documents. Some states, such as New Jersey and
Pennsylvania have formal expungement statutes for qualifying convictions.
This means that you can, in certain states, expunge convictions. Although
New York doesn't have a formal expungment statute, New York authorizes
the sealing and/or destruction of criminal records upon dismissal under
CPL 160.50 . New York's
CPL 160.50 is, arguably, better than New Jersey's expunger statute. New York
doesn't have a formal post-conviction expungement statute but does this mean that you can't do anything
to hide a conviction? No. While you can't apply for expungemnt in
New York, you can have qualifying non-criminal violations sealed under
CPL 160.55. If your New York case ended with a dismissal, you may, depending on the
nature of the dismissal, have the right to have negative background information
removed from your record and have certain records destroyed and/or sealed.