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When Might it Be Useful to Expunge My Criminal Record in New York?

When Might it Be Useful to Expunge My Criminal Record in New York?

Criminal consequences for committing certain crimes can be far-reaching in New York. The most obvious consequences include incarceration and fines, and these are the penalties that defendants tend to really focus on when fighting for their rights. But there is another consequence that many defendants overlook: The damage that a criminal conviction can do to your reputation. Even if you do not care what other people think of you from a purely social standpoint, these convictions can affect many other aspects of your life. 


When exactly might it be useful to get an expungement in New York? What exactly does it mean to have your criminal records sealed? How should you approach this process? You can start by getting in touch with an experienced lawyer who has experience in this specific area. These legal professionals can help you strive for the best possible outcomes as you clear up your reputation and fight for your rights. 


What is Expungement?


Expungement is the process of erasing criminal records. Once your criminal records have been expunged, there will be no evidence that you were ever arrested in the first place. All information related to your arrest will be removed from the public record. In addition, you can legally deny that you were ever arrested without facing any consequences. Alternatively, you can “fail to acknowledge” that you were arrested or charged with the crime. For example, someone might ask you whether you have ever been arrested for a certain crime. If you were arrested for that crime, but the records were expunged, you can say no. 


It is worth noting that New York has no expungement process. Other states, such as New Jersey, allow this process. New York, on the other hand, allows some records to be “sealed.” This is not quite the same as expungement since the latter involves the complete destruction of your criminal records. On the other hand, a “sealed” criminal record still exists and is accessible to some agencies but not the general public. This means that you can still enjoy many of the benefits associated with expungement. Only certain people can see sealed records, including:


  • The defendant (you)
  • Your employer (only if you are required to carry a firearm as part of your employment)
  • A parole officer
  • A prosecutor
  • A law enforcement agency


What is the Difference Between a Sealed Record and an Expunged Record?


The main difference between expungement and sealing is the use of the keyword “destruction.” Expungement is simply another word for destruction while sealing implies that the records still exist but are hidden from view. This creates the appearance that the records no longer exist, but they are still accessible to anyone with the appropriate permissions. In other words, expungement is the clear winner if you want to clear your name, but sealing certainly comes with its own set of benefits as well. If you live in New York, this is the only option available to you anyway. 


Are Some Records Automatically Expunged?


In some situations, your prior crimes are expunged or sealed without you having to do anything. The most obvious example is a case in which you successfully defended yourself. If you were found not guilty, all records of your arrest will likely be expunged, allowing you to carry on with your life as normal. 


If you committed a crime as a child, these records are also typically expunged. The idea here is to give children a second chance and an opportunity to mature mentally. The same general logic applies to “youthful offenders.” Finally, it is worth noting that a wide range of traffic infractions are partially sealed, ensuring that a few parking tickets or speeding tickets will not affect your ability to get a job. The same goes for other minor offenses, such as disorderly offenses. 


Of course, the definition of “minor offense” constantly changes. Even just a few years ago, the possession of marijuana for personal use was considered a serious offense in New York. Today, this is completely legal. This legalization process has forced the government to re-examine past marijuana convictions in a more forgiving light, and this is why many prior marijuana-related crimes are automatically expunged or sealed as well in New York. 


What are the Benefits of Expungement/Record Sealing?


The main benefits of having your criminal records sealed or expunged have to do with two things: Employment and housing. There are many jobs that require criminal record checks in New York, and these jobs do not always involve security clearances or firearms. In fact, you could go through a criminal background check for relatively basic jobs, such as driving a school bus or handling cash. 


Note that New York’s Fair Chance Act prohibits employers from asking questions about your criminal record during the hiring process. But they can still run a background check on you after a conditional offer of employment, which means that you could be hired and fired very quickly with a criminal record. Also keep in mind that New York follows an at-will employment system, which means they don’t even need to give you a reason for firing you. They could simply run a criminal record check based on publicly-available information and then fire you without actually revealing the information they have uncovered. 


The Fair Chance For Housing Act also prohibits landlords from criminal background checks on prospective tenants. However, these laws are changing all the time, and the introduction of this legislation is highly controversial. Landlords are pushing back, and even some residents feel that this legislation puts them at risk. 


Where Can I Find a Qualified Criminal Defense Attorney in New York?


If you have been searching for an experienced attorney serving New York, look no further than the Law Office of Katherine O’Brien. Over the years, we have helped numerous New Yorkers and New Jersey residents seal criminal records and expunge prior convictions. We understand how useful this can be as you strive for equal rights and a fair second chance. Book your consultation today to learn more about the possibilities. We will craft an action plan based on your unique circumstances, so reach out now to get started. 


About the Author:

Katherine O'Brien Law

At Katherine O’Brien Law, we are committed to helping people remove their criminal records and offering them a fresh start.  Our experienced expungement lawyers will handle every aspect of your expungement from the beginning to the end. In addition, we understand that many of our clients are seeking an expungement in order to gain employment or further their careers.  Thus, we offer affordable expungements and flexible payment plans. In addition to helping people clear their criminal records, we also provide New Jersey legal name changes and driver’s license restoration services.  We also represent clients nationwide with FDIC Section 19 waivers, TSA Global... View full business profile here: Katherine O'Brien Law

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