I'm an expungement lawyer in New York City. I've been defending clients charged with crimes for over 25 years.
New York permits a wide range of felony and misdemeanor convictions to be "sealed". The process of sealing of criminal convictions is often called "expungement".
You should understand expungement if:
If you've been convicted of a crime, unsealed official records of the conviction are available to the public. People, businesses, and government agencies can access your records when conducting a background check.
Previously, official records of criminal convictions remained public forever.
Now, New York courts may expunge certain convictions.
Only an "eligible offense" may be expunged.
All crimes defined under New York law are eligible offenses EXCEPT:
You MAY apply to a court for sealing if you've been convicted of:
You MAY NOT apply to a court for sealing if you've been convicted of:
If you've been convicted of too many eligible offenses, none of them may be sealed. For example, if you've been convicted of three eligible offenses, you can't get two of them sealed so that only one conviction would remain on your record.
An eligible offense may be sealed only after ten years has passed since the court sentenced you on your latest conviction. If the court sentenced you to a period of jail, ten years must pass since your latest release from jail.
If you've been convicted of multiple eligible offenses committed as part of one "criminal transaction", all such convictions count as one eligible offense.
When considering an application to seal an eligible offense, the judge must consider any relevant factors, including but not limited to:
Your application for sealing should address all relevant factors, backed up with documents when possible.
Ten years is a long time. Nevertheless, if you're currently negotiating a plea bargain that will result in a criminal conviction, try to preserve your right to seek sealing in ten years.
Because conviction of one non-eligible offense will forever bar you from sealing, try to negotiate a plea to an eligible offense.
If at all possible, avoid pleading guilty to a non-eligible offense.
If you've previously been convicted of one or more eligible offenses, understand how being convicted of another eligible offense would affect your future eligibility for expungement.
For example, if your criminal record consists entirely of a conviction of one eligible felony, then conviction of another eligible felony would automatically bar expungement in the future. However, conviction of an eligible misdemeanor would not. Eligibility for future expungement would be an additional reason to aim for a misdemeanor conviction.
Multiple convictions arising from one criminal transaction count as only one eligible offense.
So, if you're convicted of three felonies related to one criminal transaction – for example, felony convictions of burglary, grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property, for breaking into a retail store on one occasion and stealing stealing $5,000 worth of property – then the convictions count as one eligible felony offense, not three.
Three felony convictions in this scenario would not automatically bar expungement.
Try to avoid structuring a plea bargain that would result in multiple convictions related to multiple "criminal transactions".
For example, if you're charged with committing a string of three separate commercial burglaries, each burglary is a separate criminal transaction. Try to avoid pleading guilty to one felony per transaction, because conviction of more than 1 eligible felony would permanently bar sealing.
Likewise, in the same scenario, try to avoid pleading guilty to one misdemeanor per transaction, because conviction of more than 2 eligible misdemeanors would permanently bar sealing.
Instead, try to structure a plea bargain where you would be convicted of no more than one eligible offense to cover all three burglaries. Such an outcome would not automatically bar sealing.
Before you plead guilty, thoroughly consult your lawyer about the effect your plea will have on your ability to seek expungement in ten years.
For a free consultation about sealing your eligible convictions, call New York City expungement lawyer Bruce Yerman at 212-390-0036, or complete this short form: