Expunging or Sealing Adult Criminal Records in New York
New York allows criminal records to be sealed under the circumstances described below. When your record is sealed, it is hidden from public view, though law enforcement and some licensing agencies will still have access to it. In most cases, after your record is sealed, you may say that you were not arrested or convicted of the arrest or conviction that’s been sealed. Occupational licensing agencies and private and public employers are not allowed to take negative actions upon learning of a sealed conviction.
For many years, New York did not allow the sealing of misdemeanor or felony convictions other than for some drug convictions. But in 2017, a sweeping budget bill included provisions that provide, for the first time, for sealing options for misdemeanors and all but the most serious felonies. That law will take effect in October 2017.
For an in-depth description of New York law on record sealing and restoration of rights, see New York Restoration of Rights, Pardon, Expungement & Sealing, authored by the Collateral Consequences Resource Center.
Sealing an Arrest Record in New York
Your arrest record can be sealed if the case was terminated in your favor -- for example, if the charges were dismissed, dropped, vacated, or your conviction was set aside. (New York Criminal Procedure Law § 160.50.)
Sealing a Noncriminal Conviction in New York
Convictions for most noncriminal offenses -- such as traffic infractions or disorderly conduct violations -- can be sealed. (New York Criminal Procedure Law § 160.55.)
Sealing a Criminal Conviction in New York
The 2017 legislation created new Section 160.59 of New York’s Criminal Procedure Law. It allows a court to seal up to two convictions (only one of which may be a felony), for all crimes other than sex offenses and Class A and violent felonies (see New York Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences). Individuals who have pending charges, or who have been convicted subsequent to the last conviction for which sealing is sought, are also not eligible. The applicant must wait ten years from the date of conviction or release from prison.
The New York Standard for Sealing Conviction Records
Eligible defendants are not automatically entitled to have their records sealed. Instead, they must convince the court that sealing is deserved and in the public interest. The District Attorney has an opportunity to attend the hearing and object; and even without the prosecutor’s input, the court may still deny the application. The court will consider any relevant factor, including:
- the amount of time since the last conviction, the circumstances of the offense, and the defendant’s subsequent rehabilitation (including schooling, community service and treatment programs)
- the circumstances and seriousness of any other convictions for which sealing is not being sought
- victim statements, and
- the impact, if any, of sealing on the public’s safety and confidence in and respect for the law.
If your conviction was reversed or vacated, or if you were pardoned, any related DNA evidence may be expunged from the state DNA database. (New York Executive Law § 995-c.)
Getting Legal Help
Cleaning up your criminal history can be complicated. If you are not sure whether your record qualifies for sealing in New York -- or for advice about your personal situation -- you should contact a qualified criminal law attorney. A good lawyer can guide you each step of the way.