Expungement and Sealing in New York
New laws in New York now make it easier than ever to hide an old New York arrest.
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 statutes work.
Sealing under 160.50. 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
guaranteed to be sealed in New York (but post-conviction sealing might be possible).
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.
Sealing under 160.55. In New York, post conviction sealing can take place under two different
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. Generally, 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 and may prohibit the government from knowing about
the case. Therefore sealing under
CPL 160.50 is more comprehensive.
If you ended up being convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, this means
you were probably not able to get your arrest sealed under CPL 160.55
or 160.50. New laws in New York now provide some relief. Under
CPL 160.59, you can get your misdemeanor or felony conviction sealed after 10 years
from the conviction date. This sealing is not as comprehensive as under
160.50 or 160.55 but can remove the conviction from your public record.
Sealing under CPL 160.58. If you have certain marijuana or controlled substance convictions and
you completed a intensive drug program such as diversion, you may be eligible
to have your record sealed under a new sealing section,
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 expungement 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 expungement in
New York, you can have qualifying convictions sealed under
CPL 160.58, or
CPL 160.59. 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.