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NYC Criminal Defense Attorney

Sealing, Expungment, and Hiding Criminal Records in New York


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 sealing 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 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. 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.

Sealing under CPL 160.59. 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, CPL 160.58.

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 160.55, 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.

You can read more about sealing here