One of the most common misconceptions about the criminal justice system is that once an imposed criminal sentence has been fully served and the fines fully paid, there will be no further consequences for the crime. Unfortunately, in many cases, it’s not possible to go on with life exactly as you did before. Because convictions are part of your public record, a misdemeanor or felony conviction can have ripple effects on your immigration status, housing, and employment.
The criminal justice system also tends to treat people with prior criminal convictions differently from people who don’t have criminal convictions. Repeat offenders will be subject to longer prison sentences and the potential for higher fines. For these reasons, a criminal conviction’s consequences will last long beyond the serving of the initial sentence.
If you’re accused of a crime, whether misdemeanor or felony, it’s important that you hire an attorney as soon as possible. Ideally, the attorney would be present immediately after your arrest and be part of your arraignment. In the best circumstances, the attorney can work toward dismissal of the charges or a settlement. Non-criminal disposition is the ideal first choice for any approach to charges.
If you have a previous felony or misdemeanor conviction, you might be eligible to have your conviction expunged from your record. This means that it would no longer be part of the public record, and it wouldn’t come up on employer background checks. The potential qualifications for expungement and sealing will vary depending on the state in which the criminal record exists.
In the state of New York, the legislature has passed a number of different laws that allow certain people to have their records sealed through a court order. Also, you might be eligible for either a Certificate of Good Conduct or a Certificate of Relief from Forfeitures, which lifts certain civil restrictions that you might suffer after a conviction. These include statutory employment bars and the loss of your driver’s license.
Regardless of what you think you might be eligible for, it’s important to get in contact with a lawyer familiar with the expungement and sealing procedures in your particular state. In New York, applicants for this type of expungement must be vetted extensively. Depending on the case, you might need to have a formal hearing before your parole board or relevant court. Oftentimes, the state will contest your application. It’s best to have an attorney to help withstand this contest, rather than facing it on your own.
For the most part, sealing and expungement will depend on the type of crime that was committed and the length of time it has been since the crime was committed. Several states have laws that a person must wait a decade after their conviction before their record can be sealed. Also, certain crimes might not be eligible for sealing and expungement. Generally, these include:
In the state of New York, a person must meet these qualifications to apply for a record sealing:
If you have a conviction that’s more than a decade old, you shouldn’t need to keep suffering the consequences. Your first step is to get in contact with an attorney who can explain your options going forward. When you file your application, you’ll be taking a step toward bettering your life.
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