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New York Criminal Procedure Law § 160.59: Sealing of Criminal Convictions

Everyday life events such as finding a job or renting an apartment may not be much of a big deal for most people, but for individuals who have been convicted of a crime, these tasks can often be major hurdles to overcome.

Because an individual’s criminal record is publicly available for anyone to discover, a simple background check can prevent that person from joining the military, finding a place to live, or even just securing gainful employment. To address this problem, Section 160.59 under the New York Criminal Procedure recently encompassed a wider range of offenses to include for consideration in the sealing of criminal records.

It is important to note that sealing is not the same as expungement, as the two processes are often confused. Expungement is the act of simply erasing a criminal record (an option that is not available under New York law), whereas sealing is a process in which criminal records are removed from public access as well as access by government agencies.

Not every conviction is eligible to be sealed, however. Before granting the sealing of a record, the court will take several issues into consideration, namely, the seriousness of the crime. Some of the more serious convictions, particularly sex crimes that require registration under the Sex Offenders Registration Act or crimes involving first-degree burglary, assault, or Class A crimes such as first degree kidnapping or arson, are not eligible for sealing.

Several other factors regarded by a court in determining whether a criminal record can be sealed includes the timeframe of the conviction (at least 10 years) and the number of convictions on an individual’s record. By law, only two convictions may be sealed, one of which may be a felony. A third consideration that is generally given weight in the decision of whether to seal a record involves the individual’s character and conduct. An individual demonstrating a history of rehabilitation, such as consistent participation in a drug or alcohol recovery program, a stable work history, or community involvement will stand a greater chance of having his or her criminal record sealed, as opposed to someone that continues to get arrested and is charged with additional offenses.

In some cases, such as an acquittal or a dismissal, a record is automatically sealed, even without a request by the defendant; otherwise, a motion to seal must be filed. After a criminal record is sealed, the only individuals able to view the record other than the defendant could be a representative of a law enforcement agency (after a petition to the court), a potential employer if the job requires the carrying of a gun, or any other individual that has been granted permission by the defendant to view the record.

To ensure the best outcome in a petition to seal your criminal records, you should seek the advice of a legal professional that is knowledgeable of the New York criminal system. If you are looking for assistance to seal your records, contact the Spodek Law Group for a free consultation and assessment of your case. Our firm currently serves many locations throughout New York, including Queens, Manhattan, Long Island, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island, and Suffolk and Westchester counties.

by Leonard on Spodek Law Group
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