Criminal Record Sealing
Lifetime Disadvantages of a Criminal Conviction
Criminal convictions can haunt an individual for life, regardless of the offense. Employers seldom offer positions to convicted applicants and banks or lenders are much more hesitant to extend a line of credit or mortgage. Colleges are also unlikely to admit students with criminal convictions. In the past, the only way to lessen these disadvantages was to obtain a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities or a Certificate of Good Conduct. The problem with these documents, however, is that the conviction is still visible regardless of how long ago it occurred.
Conviction Sealing in New York
Fortunately, New York State passed a law permitted the sealing of most types of convictions. A sealing completely hides convictions from the public. In the past, convictions sealing was available to an extremely limited number of minor drug offenses, but the new law extends to all misdemeanors and most felonies including DWI offenses. If multiple convictions are related to one event, those convictions could be treated as a single conviction for sealing purposes. This new law allows people with convictions to truly move on and stop the past from haunting them.
Sealing a conviction is different than expungement. Expunging a criminal conviction completely erases if from the record and it no longer exists. This is not possible under current New York State law. On the other hand, sealing simply hides the conviction from the public. Law enforcement agencies will still be able to view the conviction, but it will be hidden from the public if a sealing application is granted. A sealed conviction will not appear on background checks run by employers, banks, or schools.
Expungement and Sealing Differences
Record expungement means a conviction is completely removed. The conviction is no longer visible to the public, law enforcement, or court. Essentially, it’s as if there was never a conviction in the first place and there is no way for it to be seen on a background check or used against a person in a future criminal case.
Record sealing simply means the conviction is hidden only from the public. The conviction still exists, but employers and universities will not see the conviction on a background check. However, the conviction will still be visible to law enforcement and courts.
New York State does not allow criminal records to be expunged, but thankfully permits the sealing of a wide range of conviction.
Under the new law, a person can apply to have up to two convictions sealed (only one felony conviction may be sealed). The law allows the sealing of a wide range of offenses, but excludes the following felony convictions:
- Class A felonies;
- Most sex crimes;
- Violent Felonies; and
- Any Conspiracy related to the above offense.
A person is eligible to apply to have his/her convictions sealed if:
- Ten years have past since the conviction or when the individual was released from incarceration;
- There have been no other pending charges or convictions in those ten years; and
- The individual has not been convicted of more than one felony or more than two total crimes.
The Sealing Application Process
The sealing process is comprehensive and involves many variables. To begin, an application must be prepared and submitted to the District Attorney who has the opportunity to review and object to it. After, the sentencing judge who presided over the original conviction will also review the application and may call for a hearing to listen to the District Attorney’s arguments against sealing the conviction(s) and allow the applicant to defend the application in court. The judge then makes a final decision and has wide discretion in determining if application should be granted or denied based on several factors. These include how long it has been since the conviction, the seriousness of the offense, the level of rehabilitation since the conviction, as well as other considerations.