Westchester Expungement and Sealing Procedures Lawyers
Having a criminal record can make life extremely difficult. It can prevent you from getting a good job, finding housing, or even applying for loans. That’s why many people look into expungement or sealing of their criminal records. Here in Westchester County, New York, sealing criminal records is possible but expungement is not.
This article will explain everything you need to know about sealing your criminal record in Westchester County – who’s eligible, how the process works, what gets sealed, and more. We’ll also touch on why true expungement isn’t allowed in New York.
Why Seal a Criminal Record in New York?
Sealing a criminal record in New York can provide many benefits:
- Make it easier to find employment – Many employers won’t hire someone with a criminal record. Sealing the record can remove this barrier.
- Improve access to housing – Landlords often check criminal histories and may not rent to someone with a record.
- Restore eligibility for professional licensing – Certain professions require licenses that can be denied or revoked due to a criminal conviction. Sealing may help restore eligibility.
- Regain custody rights – Past convictions can be used against someone in child custody cases. Sealing the record may help.
- Reduce stigma – Having a sealed record essentially hides the conviction from public view and allows the person to move on with their life.
- Protect privacy – Sealed records are not released to the general public or media, allowing the person to keep their past mistakes private.
As you can see, sealing a criminal record in New York provides a valuable fresh start and second chance. It helps reduce the lingering penalties and stigma of a conviction.
New York Sealing vs. Expungement
Let’s clarify the difference between record sealing and expungement.
Expungement means the criminal record is completely erased and destroyed. The arrest and conviction are treated like they never happened.
Sealing keeps the criminal record intact, but hides it from public view. Law enforcement can still see sealed records.
New York State does NOT allow expungement of criminal convictions, with very few exceptions. The only way to remove a conviction from your record in NY is to get a pardon from the governor.
However, New York does allow sealing of certain criminal convictions to prevent them from being seen by the public. Sealing provides many of the same benefits as expungement without actually destroying records.
So for most people with a criminal history in New York, sealing the record is the only option. True expungement is not possible.
Westchester County Sealing Laws
The process for sealing criminal records is governed by New York Criminal Procedure Law 160.59. This law allows sealing for people who meet certain conditions:
- Can only have up to 2 misdemeanor convictions, or 1 prior felony and 1 misdemeanor
- Must be crime-free for 10 years prior to applying
- Cannot have any convictions for sex offenses or violent felonies
- Cannot seal out-of-state or federal convictions
If you meet the above criteria, you may be eligible to apply to the original sentencing court to have your qualifying convictions sealed. The court will review your specific circumstances to decide.
How to Apply for Sealing in Westchester County
Sealing your criminal record in Westchester County involves submitting an application to the original sentencing court where you were convicted.
Here are the steps in the sealing application process:
- Obtain an official Certificate of Disposition for the convictions you want sealed. This can be ordered from the court clerk.
- Compile evidence you have been rehabilitated, such as completion of probation, education certificates, proof of employment, and letters of reference.
- Submit the sealing application and evidence to the court along with a fee of $45 per conviction.
- The District Attorney’s office will review your application and can choose to oppose it if they wish. Your attorney can contact the DA in advance to argue in favor of sealing.
- Attend the sealing hearing where the judge will decide whether to approve sealing based on the facts of your case. Victim impact statements can also be considered.
- If approved, the court will order the records sealed. Fingerprints, mugshots, and DNA samples related to the conviction can also be destroyed.
- The entire process usually takes 2-3 months from start to finish.
As you can see, getting your record sealed in Westchester County is not a simple process, but rather requires carefully following proper procedures under NY law. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is highly recommended to handle the sealing application and provide the best chance of success.
Finding a Westchester County Sealing Lawyer
There are many criminal defense lawyers and law firms in Westchester County that can handle sealing of criminal records. When choosing a sealing attorney, look for these important qualifications:
- Extensive experience with NY sealing laws and processes
- High rate of success getting client’s records sealed
- Strong relationships with local prosecutors and judges
- Ability to argue persuasively on your behalf
- Expertise gathering evidence and documents
- Reasonable legal fees and payment plans
- Good reviews and reputation with past clients
Take time to research multiple attorneys’ credentials, case results, and client reviews. Meet with a few in person before deciding who to hire. The right lawyer can make all the difference in getting your Westchester County criminal record sealed.
What Types of Records Can Be Sealed in New York?
In New York, only criminal convictions are eligible for sealing under NY CPL 160.59. Other types of records can be sealed under different laws:
- Arrests that did not result in a conviction – Can be sealed under NY CPL 160.50 after the case concludes. Associated records like fingerprints and mugshots can also be destroyed.
- Non-criminal offense convictions – Can be sealed under NY CPL 160.55 if you were originally charged with a misdemeanor or felony but later convicted of a non-criminal violation or infraction.
- Marijuana convictions – Some minor marijuana possession and sale convictions are eligible for expungement under NY CPL 160.50.
So in summary, sealing in New York applies to criminal convictions, acquittals, and non-criminal dispositions, while only some marijuana offenses can be fully expunged. Speak to a lawyer to determine if your specific records are eligible.
Benefits of Sealing Your Criminal Record
Getting your criminal record sealed provides many important benefits:
- Employment – Most employers do background checks, so sealing can remove a huge barrier to getting a job.
- Housing – Landlords often deny applicants with a criminal history. Sealing helps avoid this.
- Education – Sealing allows applying for schools and financial aid without a conviction on record.
- Professional licensing – Sealing can help regain eligibility for licenses lost due to past crimes.
- Loans and credit – Sealing allows applying for loans, mortgages and other financial opportunities that require background checks.
- Civic privileges – Past crimes can limit volunteering, voting rights and civic activities. Sealing helps restore these.
- Peace of mind – Not having a public criminal record provides enormous peace of mind.
In summary, sealing provides a true fresh start and second chance at life after a criminal conviction. If you’re eligible under NY law, it’s an option definitely worth pursuing.
Why Hire a Lawyer to Seal Your Record?
Technically, it’s possible to apply for record sealing on your own without an attorney. But doing it alone is NOT recommended for several reasons:
- The process is complex with many legal technicalities. A lawyer knows the procedures and laws inside-out.
- The application is more likely to succeed with an experienced attorney handling your case.
- A lawyer can negotiate with the District Attorney before the hearing to address any concerns about sealing your record.
- An attorney can best gather evidence and documents to convince the judge such as proof of rehabilitation.
- Lawyers have relationships with local judges and prosecutors that help in the sealing process.
- You only get one chance at sealing. If the application fails, you can’t reapply.
For all these reasons, hiring a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer is strongly advised to get your record sealed successfully in Westchester County. Don’t leave it to chance and risk handling it alone without expertise.
Westchester County Sealing Denials and Appeals
Unfortunately, not everyone who applies gets approved to have their Westchester County criminal records sealed. Reasons for denial include:
- The nature of your convictions make you ineligible under NY law
- You have too many convictions on your record
- It hasn’t been 10 years since your last conviction
- The District Attorney’s office opposed your application
- The judge decides you are not rehabilitated based on the facts
- Victim impact statements recommend against sealing
If your sealing application gets denied, you have 30 days to file an appeal to try again. An appeals lawyer can argue the judge made an error in denying your sealing request. However, appeals are still an uphill battle with no guarantee of success.
When Sealing is Not an Option in New York
While sealing criminal records is possible in New York for many people, there are some situations where sealing is NOT an option:
- Convictions for sex offenses
- Violent felony convictions
- Active or pending criminal cases
- Federal or out-of-state convictions
- If less than 10 years have passed since last conviction
- More than 2 misdemeanor convictions on record
If the above apply to your criminal record, unfortunately sealing will not be an option in New York. You may need to wait and then re-apply if your record eventually meets the eligibility criteria.
Conclusion – Get a Fresh Start with Sealing
Having a criminal record can severely limit your quality of life even after serving your sentence. Sealing your eligible criminal convictions in Westchester County provides a valuable fresh start by hiding your record from public view. While true expungement is not allowed in New York, sealing your record still offers many of the same benefits and opportunities. Consult with a criminal defense lawyer to see if you qualify for sealing and take the first step towards your new future today.