I cannot tell you how many times over the past twenty-five years I have been asked this question. Unfortunately, my answer has usually been no.
During Law School I was an intern in the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office. A large majority of my time was spent preparing applications to have people’s criminal records “expunged”, or removed and sealed, so that those convictions would not interfere with their future employment, civic duties, etc. I don’t recall the exact details of the law at the time, but there were limits as to what sorts of convictions could be expunged. My perception was that the whole process was fair.
When I began practicing in New York, I was surprised to discover that, for the most part, New York law did not permit expungement, or sealing, of a criminal record.
Things have improved slightly over the years, but in most cases your New York criminal record will remain public for the rest of your life.
Now, for some good news. Here are a few possible ways you might be able to seal, or at least minimize the negative impact, of a New York criminal conviction:
If a youth between 16 and 19 years old commits a crime, the conviction could be replaced by a youthful offender adjudication. Read our article for more information on Youthful Offender adjudications.
In 2009 New York passed a drug reform law which lessened the harsh penalties required by the Rockefeller Drug laws. One of the provisions of this law makes it possible to seal certain drug related convictions. Our article entitled New York Drug Law Reform contains more detailed information on this provision.
Although it is still true that most New York criminal convictions cannot be sealed, it is possible to lessen the negative impact of the conviction by applying for a certificate of relief from civil disabilities.
For more details on the benefits of obtaining this certificate, read our article entitled Certificate of Relief From Civil Disabilities in New York.
Remember, nothing contained in this article constitutes legal advice, nor should it be treated as legal advice. Also, laws change constantly, so do your own research or hire an attorney to make sure the laws mentioned here have not changed. You may wish to consult an attorney to evaluate your particular situation.