New NY Law Permits Many Citizens to Have Criminal Records Sealed

The New York State Legislature quietly passed a bill, tucked into their state budget, that will allow convicted citizens to petition courts to seal their New York State criminal convictions. Starting October of 2017, this law will allow New Yorkers convicted of crimes like Petit Larceny, Assault, Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, among others, to be sealed. Understandably, there are many questions that New Yorkers have about the implications of this new law. What is the procedure to seal your convictions in New York? How long does it take to seal a conviction in New York? Can I seal my misdemeanor or felony conviction?

While New York still does not allow expungement of criminal records (the total erasing of any conviction), this new law allows the court you were convicted in to seal your convictions. Your prior convictions will be unavailable to future employers, allowing more New Yorkers to pursue their dreams, unhindered by long-past criminal records. The New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law 296(16) was also amended to protect your rights against future employers, by prohibiting employers from asking about, or denying employment/licensing because of a sealed conviction.

While future employers will not be able to see your sealed criminal convictions, your conviction records will remain available to a few “qualified agencies.” Courts, corrections agencies, and law enforcement officers will have access to your full criminal history. Past convictions will live on for the purpose of sentence enhancement or establishing elements of a future crime, since your prior convictions will still appear in fingerprint reports. It’s important to remember that public and private employers, as well as occupational licensing agencies, will not have access to these sealed convictions, and those with sealed criminal convictions in New York will have numerous opportunities available to them with the implementation of this law.

New York Criminal Procedure Law 160.59 will go into effect in October 2017, and courts will be able to seal up to two convictions on a New Yorker’s record. Of these two convictions, only one can be a felony, and neither of the two convictions can be sex offenses, violent felonies, or class-A felonies. If your past conviction is in an applicable category, then you may be eligible to seal your conviction 10 years after the date of conviction or 10 years after your release from prison. 

If you meet the eligibility criteria for a sealed criminal conviction in New York, your criminal conviction sealing lawyer will make an application to the court where you were sentenced. It is possible that a hearing could take place between your criminal defense attorney, an assistant district attorney, and a judge, to determine if your prior convictions should be sealed. The judge at a sealing hearing will consider many factors, which are spelled out in N.Y. Crim Proc. Sec. 160.59(7):

(a)  the amount of time that has elapsed since the defendant’s last conviction;

(b) the circumstances and seriousness of the offense for which the defendant is seeking relief, including whether the arrest charge was not an eligible offense;

(c)  the circumstances and seriousness of any other offenses for which the defendant stands convicted;

(d) the character of the defendant, including any measures that the defendant has taken toward rehabilitation, such as participating in treatment programs, work, or schooling, and participating in community service or other volunteer programs;

 (e)  any statements made by the victim of the offense for which the defendant is seeking relief;

 (f) the impact of sealing the defendant’s record upon his or her rehabilitation and upon his or her successful and productive reentry and reintegration into society; and

 (g)  the impact of sealing the defendant’s record on public safety and upon the public’s confidence in and respect for the law.

The enactment of New York Criminal Procedure Law 160.59 will change the lives of many New Yorkers by sealing past convictions that hinder their future successes.  If you have been a law-abiding citizen, and out of trouble for 10 or more years after your conviction, you shouldn’t let your criminal convictions hold you back from experiencing new opportunities and changing your life. Let The Breslin Law Group guide you through the process to seal your conviction in New York state - click here to contact us today.