New York Law to Allow for Sealing of Criminal Convictions for the First Time Come October 2017

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

A Bill passed by the New York Legislature in their annual (2017-2018) Budget Vote is set to take effect October 2017 and will be codified into Section 160.59 of the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL). It allows for the state's first general sealing authority for adult criminal convictions. Until now, record sealing was only available for diversion courts and drug treatment dispositions. Come October, sealing will be available for Misdemeanor convictions and some Felony convictions.

This new law, tucked into the massive Budget Bill, makes New York state one of the most expansive for criminal sealing options in the U.S., rivaling Massachusetts, Washington and Minnesota. New York Courts will now have the discretion to seal up to two convictions (only one felony) for all crimes, minus sex offenses and class A violent Felonies. The sealed records will remain available to law enforcement but will be unavailable to the public. A ten-year waiting periods applies and runs from the date of conviction or release from prison.

Procedure: An Application is made to the Court where the conviction for the most serious offense sought to be sealed occurred, or to the Court where the individual was last convicted if all offenses for which sealing is sought are of the same class. NY Crim. Proc. Law § 160.59(2)(a). The Application must contain a sworn statement of reasons why sealing should be granted. NY Crim. Proc. Law § 160.59(2)(b)(v). The Application is assigned to the sentencing judge if sealing is sought for a single conviction, and to the County/Supreme Court otherwise. NY Crim. Proc. Law § 160.59(2)(d). The District Attorney must be served, and has 45 days to object to the Application. If the District Attorney does not object, the Court may decide the Application without a hearing. NY Crim. Proc. Law § 160.59(6).

Practical Effect: If the sealing Application is granted, all "official records and papers relating to the arrests, prosecutions, and convictions, including all duplicates and copies thereof, on file with the division of criminal justice services or any court shall be sealed and not made available to any person or public or private agency." NY Crim. Proc. Law § 160.59(8). However, exceptions apply. The "sealed" records remain available to "qualified agencies," including Courts, corrections agencies, and the Office of Professional Medical Conduct, federal and state law enforcement agencies, to state entities responsible for issuing firearm licenses, to employers for screening applicants for police officer/peace officer employment and to the FBI for firearm background checks. NY Crim. Proc. Law § 160.59(9).