A criminal conviction, or even an arrest that did not lead to a conviction, can follow you around for the rest of your life. You may be denied housing, employment, or a professional license for this reason – and you might not even be told why, for example, that your employment application was rejected. New York, however, allows criminal records to be sealed from public view, thereby allowing you to conceal it from those who would use it against you.
To have your criminal record sealed, one of the following cases must apply to you:
- There is an error on your criminal record.
- The criminal charge that you wish to seal was resolved in your favor – a charge that was dismissed, for example, or a charge for which you were acquitted.
- Non-criminal violations such as traffic violations can be sealed.
- Many drug-related offenses can be sealed if you were sentenced to complete a judicially ordered drug treatment program and successfully completed that program.
- Misdemeanors and certain felony convictions can be sealed if you committed no more than two such offenses and if no more than one of them was a felony. You must wait until 10 years have passed since the date of your sentencing or the date of your release from incarceration, whichever is later. Although the court has the discretion to decide whether or not to seal your record, certain serious offenses can never be sealed.
Criminal offenses committed when you were a juvenile are sealed automatically. Unfortunately, drug-related offenses for which you successfully completed a drug diversion mandate cannot be sealed, even if your case was dismissed.
Who Can See Your Criminal Record Even after It Has Been Sealed
In New York, the following parties can still view your criminal record even after it has been sealed:
- Any person that you give written permission to
- Your prospective employer, if you apply to become a member of a law enforcement agency
- Your parole officer, if you are arrested while you are on parole or probation
- Law enforcement officials, or a prosecutor, in response to a court order. This probably won’t happen unless you are arrested for a new crime that is related to a crime that has been sealed.
To apply for the sealing of your criminal record, you must complete the following procedures:
- Obtain a criminal Certificate of Disposition for CPL 160.59 Sealing application from the court with jurisdiction over your case. You will need one of these for each entry in your criminal record that you wish to have sealed.
- Complete the application and turn it into the appropriate court.
- Pay the filing fee. The fee is $5 per certificate outside of New York City and $10 per certificate inside New York City.
- Wait until you receive your Certificate(s) of Disposition from the court.
- Complete a separate Sealing Application for each item you wish to have sealed. Don’t sign it yet. Sign the sealing application in the presence of a Notary Public
- Gather together any evidence of rehabilitation that you have collected (see below).
- Copy the Certificate of Disposition, the Sealing Application, and your evidence of rehabilitation, and send a copy to the District Attorney’s office by mail or hand delivery. If you are seeking to seal more than one conviction in more than one jurisdiction, you will need to deliver these items to two different District Attorneys. Be sure to make an extra copy for your own records.
- Fill out an Affidavit of Service to each DA you sent the application to, and sign it in front of a Notary Public. If someone else sent these documents on your behalf, they must complete the Affidavit of Service, not you. Copy the Affidavit(s) of Service for your records.
- Send the originals of the foregoing documents plus the original Affidavit(s) of Service to the appropriate court. If you are applying to have convictions or guilty pleas sealed, this means the jurisdiction where the most serious conviction was entered or, if you are applying for sealing of two convictions of equal seriousness, to the court in the jurisdiction of the most recent conviction. There is no filing fee.
- Wait to receive a copy of your Seal Order. You will receive this only if your application is successful.
- Complete a Request for Seal Verification form and send it to the address printed on the form. You should receive a letter in the mail confirming that your criminal record has been sealed.
Evidence of Rehabilitation
Since judges typically enjoy broad discretion in deciding whether or not to allow a criminal record to be sealed, submitting evidence of rehabilitation (in the event that you are applying to have an actual conviction or guilty plea sealed) is one of the best ways of maximizing your chances of success.
Although the concept of “rehabilitation” is inherently nebulous, the following are some time-tested ways of convincing a judge that you have indeed rehabilitated. All of this evidence must concern your behavior after your last conviction.
- Transcripts and letters of support from teachers and school administrators if you have been to school since your conviction.
- Certificates of completion and letters from job training program administrators.
- A letter from your employer testifying to your rehabilitation. The most persuasive letter would come from a direct supervisor.
- A letter from your parole or probation officer.
- Letters from people who have supervised you or worked with you in volunteer programs.
- Letters from people who are in a position to evaluate your performance in a drug rehab program, psychological counseling program, or some similar program.
- A Certificate of Good Conduct (you must submit a separate application for this) or a Certificate of Relief From Disabilities (you must also submit a separate application for this)..
Let Us Help You Clear Your Name
Sealing your criminal records is a job that must be done right, and it must be done right the first time. Retaining a skilled New York criminal lawyer can be critical to avoiding the mistakes that could ruin your application. Contact E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy at (518) 284-3183 (our Albany office) or contact us online to schedule a time for us to discuss your case. We also maintain offices in Colonie, Schenectady, Saratoga, and Troy.