A Guide to Sealing Criminal Records in New York

October 11, 2016 in Assault, Frequently Asked Questions, Marijuana & Other Drugs sealing criminal records

If you’ve ever been charged with a crime in New York, one of your primary concerns will be how it affects your record.

What information is accessible to employers and the public? What control do you have over the information included in your records? Can you seal your record to prevent that information from getting into other people’s hands?

Here is our Guide to Sealing Criminal Records:

What happens to my criminal record if my case is dismissed or if I am acquitted?

In New York State, if you are acquitted or if your case is dismissed, then your records should be sealed. But, what exactly does “sealing criminal records” mean?

This is what the process looks like:

In most criminal cases, according to New York Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) §160.50, if your case is dismissed, or if your are acquitted of the charges, the clerk of the court is supposed to inform the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and the heads of any law enforcement departments or agencies who may have documentation of your case.  It is then the job of those departments and agencies to remove all photographs, palm and fingerprints, records, and documents, including every brief or opinion related to your case, and any copies from their systems.  If any of those documents have been shared with any other departments or agencies outside of New York State, the disseminating agency has to request that they either be destroyed or returned to the department from which they were sent. Once a department or agency receives a report of the acquittal or dismissal, that is sufficient for the sealing of your record.

If I was convicted of a noncriminal offense, can I have my record sealed?

In most cases, if you are convicted of a noncriminal offense–such as a violation or traffic infraction–and have an otherwise clean record, the record of this violation will be sealed after one year.

While statute CPL  §160.55(1)(c) states that this is the case, there are certain exceptions, including the violation of driving while ability impaired (DWAI), loitering, marijuana violations, or if the DA or judge decide to keep the record open in the “interest of justice,” in which case they must give you notice within five days.

In New York, records may be sealed, but they cannot be completely deleted

There is still a database of court records kept at the New York State Office of Court Administration (OCA).  This is because in New York there is no expunging, or complete erasing of criminal records.  Although records may be sealed, they cannot be completely deleted in New York, as the OCA official court records will still be open and available through the OCA database.  Although OCA is supposed to limit the accessibility of these files, it is still possible that a potential employer or landlord may be able to gain access to these sorts of records.

I was convicted of a criminal offense; can I have my record sealed?

If you were convicted as a juvenile:

Generally speaking, if you were convicted as a juvenile (between the ages of 7 and 16) and you are not convicted of other offense, your record will be sealed.

To put that in more specific terms: if you are convicted as a Juvenile Offender, or were convicted of a Juvenile Delinquency–meaning that you committed a crime between the ages of 7 and 16–your record will be unavailable to everyone unless you commit an additional offense.  If you commit further JO or JD offenses, then the judge who decides your sentence will have access to your record for sentencing purposes. Once you turn 16, you may file a motion to have your record sealed.

If you were convicted as an adult:

There are also unique circumstances in which a misdemeanor, or even a felony, can be taken off your record. If you have been convicted of a prostitution or sexual loitering crime, but it has been proven that the crime was the result of exploitation or sex trafficking, you can file a motion to have your record sealed.

Under 2009 changes to the Rockefeller Drug Laws, your record may be sealed conditionally, provided you complete the court-mandated drug treatment program, the imposed sentence, and have no impending charges. This is referred to as “conditional sealing” under CPL §160.58.

There are also several non-drug charges that can be conditionally sealed called Willard Offenses.  You can find a list of those non-drug offenses in the New York State Defenders Association (NYSDA) report.

How do I make sure that my criminal record is properly sealed?

First, go to the Access to Criminal History Records & Background Checks page on NY State’s Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) website. The DCJS background check page will give you basic information on what may be requested, and will direct you to a website called IdentoGO.  Through IdentoGO, you will be able to perform a background check on yourself.

If something comes up on your background check that you believe was supposed to be sealed, then an error may have occurred during the record sealing process, or there may be an inaccuracy on your criminal record.

Alternatively, you can request your rap sheet from the Record Review Unit of Criminal Justice Services calling, emailing or writing (see contact information below):

RecordReview@dcjs.state.ny.us
(518) 485-7675
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Statistics
4 Tower Place
Albany, NY 12203-3764

There’s an error on my background check or criminal record, how can I fix it?

In the case of an inaccurate arrest record, you will need to go to the law enforcement agency that arrested you, and request that they send an accurate record of your arrest to DCJS. For instance, if you were arrested by the NYPD, then you’ll need to contact either the precinct that arrested you, or their records department.  Remember to persist with the arresting department or agency and make sure that they send it themselves. DCJS will not accept records passed through you as an intermediary.

If the information on your criminal record is inaccurate, meaning that it either shows a conviction in error, or there is a charge on your record that was already dismissed, then you will need to go back to court.  Make sure to go to the exact same court where you were originally prosecuted.

Once you get to the courthouse, go to the court clerk and have a certificate of disposition filled out.  The Legal Action Center report called Your New York State Rap Sheet includes a “model letter,” which you can use as a template for making your own request form for a certificate of disposition.

You will need a certificate of disposition for each error that you need corrected.  When you go, make sure you have the following with you:

  • the docket number for your case
  • the date of your arrest
  • your government-issued photo identification
  • ten dollars for each requested certificate of disposition

Summary

Whether your case was dismissed, you were acquitted or even if you were convicted, you may still have options that allow you to seal your criminal record.

Do you need legal help?

Contact us today for a free legal consultation: (646) 742-9800

We are highly trained New York defense lawyers and we will proudly defend your rights.