Expunging or Sealing Adult Criminal Records in New York

New York law allows you to petition to have your criminal record sealed—that is expunged or hidden from public view. But not all convictions are eligible.

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 some government agencies may still have access to it. In most cases, after your record is sealed, you may say that you were not arrested or convicted of a crime.

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 (2018).)

Sealing a Criminal Conviction in New York

Noncriminal offenses. Convictions for most noncriminal offenses—such as traffic infractions or disorderly conduct violations—can be sealed. (New York Criminal Procedure Law § 160.55 (2018).)

Drug convictions. Records for many, but not all, drug crimes can be sealed if you successfully complete an approved treatment program. Oddly, the statute does not apply to defendants who have successfully completed a drug diversion mandate and have had their cases dismissed. This anomaly has been criticized and arguably should be remedied by the legislature. (New York Criminal Procedure Law § § 160.58, 160.50 (2018); People v Batista, 2016 NY Slip Op 26306.)

Other misdemeanor or felony convictions. If you have no more than two convictions—only one of which may be a felony—you can petition to have your criminal record sealed after waiting ten years. The ten-year waiting period is counted from the date of the imposition of your sentence or ten years after your release from custody if you were incarcerated. Convictions for certain crimes, including sex offenses, Class A felonies, and violent felonies, can never be sealed. (New York Criminal Procedure Law § 160.59 (2018).)

DNA records. 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 (2018).)

Getting Legal Help

Cleaning up your criminal history can be complicated, and the law can change at any time. 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.

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