How Do You Expunge a Criminal Conviction in New York State?

August 18, 2014

I frequently have clients ask me how they can go about getting a criminal conviction expunged from their record for a previous conviction because it’s causing some sort of problem with a current job application.  (FYI, a person wishing to “expunge” something wants to have that particular item removed from their record.)

The simple yet unfortunate response to that question is always the same: Sorry. You can’t.

New York does not expunge criminal convictions rendered in a New York State court.  Once you have a criminal conviction in New York, it truly will go down on your permanent record and be visible to any person or agency entitled to view your criminal history report, a/k/a, rap sheet.

There are, however, certain dispositions of criminal matters that can prevent or at least limit who sees what’s on your rap sheet.  For example, Juvenile Delinquent (“JD”) or Youthful Offender (“YO”) adjudications are appropriate (but not always automatic) in cases where the offense was committed when the defendant was less than 16 or 19 years of age, respectively.  Because these are “adjudications,” they are not considered “convictions” and are therefore not available to just anyone who runs a criminal background check.  JD and YO adjudications are considered confidential and are shared only in very limited circumstances (typically among the courts, the police, and jail or correctional facilities).

Alternatively, criminal cases resolved by way of a violation (e.g., disorderly conduct, harassment, trespass, etc…) are typically required to be sealed.  This means that the records of your fingerprints and/or mugshots are destroyed upon report of the violation disposition, and the case history will only be available in very limited circumstances (generally only by you at your request, law enforcement or the military, an employer in law enforcement or the military, or when you apply for a gun license).

Other instances where the record should be sealed include dismissals, acquittals, and adjournments in contemplation of dismissal (ACD’s).  Additionally, defendants convicted of certain drug or drug-related offenses may apply (meaning, granted only in the court’s discretion) for “conditional sealing” if they have complied with significant post-conviction requirements.

Since neither confidential nor sealable dispositions are “convictions” of criminal offenses, someone with only one or the other (or even both) on their criminal history can continue to truthfully affirm on applications that they have not been convicted of a crime (obviously any other misdemeanor or felony conviction would change that).

Long story short, it’s pretty difficult if not impossible to “erase” a criminal conviction in New York State.  For that reason, you should always consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney when facing a criminal charge.  The attorneys at Catalano & Carpenter LLP have over 35 years of combined criminal defense experienced.  Call us today at (845) 454-1919 to schedule a free consultation.