New York City Criminal Lawyer

Sealing and expungement are closely related terms.

Expungement is legal term to describe the process by which criminal records such as arrest records and mugshots are destroyed or sealed from the state or federal repository. Different US states may have laws that can help you expunge criminal records.

Sealing is a legal term that means that certain official records are concealed from the public record and not capable of being viewed. For example, a criminal record may be sealed so that the person can have a second chance without prospective employers finding the arrest and/or conviction.

In New York, the term "sealing" is often used instead of "expungement" because sealing is the word that the legislature uses the most in the applicable laws. In New York, sealing criminal records happens when those records and even the existence of those records are hidden from the general public and, sometimes, hidden from law enforcement. Sealing can happen if your case was dismissed or even if you were convicted of qualifying offenses.

Common Types of Sealing in New York:

State Criminal Record Fingerprints Mugshot Court file
No Sealing Yes Not sealed Not sealed Not sealed
160.50 Sealing No Sealed Sealed Sealed
160.55 Sealing No Sealed Sealed Not sealed
160.59 Sealing No Not sealed Not sealed Sealed

Before computers, criminal records were printed on paper and if you got your case expunged or sealed, some or all of these records would be physically destroyed or returned to you. In the modern era with the prevalence of computerized data, sealing is probably a more accurate description of what happens to criminal records when they are expunged. This means that records of your arrest, the mugshot, fingerprints, and court paperwork are often created digitally. Upon sealing, these items would be made unavailable to the public. Although they may be stored somewhere, their existence could not be reported to someone doing a background search.

Sealed versus destroyed records. If a background check is done on someone who has a sealed New York conviction and an old New York conviction where the physical records of the conviction were destroyed, would there be a difference in a background check? No. The background should be clean regardless of whether your records were sealed or physically destroyed.

How we can help.

The best time to contact us is while your case is still open and pending in court. While your case is still open, you have a shot at getting it sealed under CPL 160.50 which, as you can see from above, is probably the best and fastest sealing option. If you have an upcoming court date or an old unresolved NYC criminal case, contact us for a consultation.

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