LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Andrew R Miller | Feb 1, 2012

How do I expunge or seal a criminal record in New York State?

At Miller and Miller, we frequently receive requests for help from people who have been previously convicted of a criminal act and are now seeking to have their criminal record either expunged or sealed. Unfortunately, as a matter of official New York State policy, New York State lacks any mechanism for the expungement of a criminal record. Further, New York State’s sealing provisions are, in general, only available to persons who have successfully defended themselves in a criminal prosecution. Accordingly, as opposed to many other states, in New York State there is, at present time, no simple way for a person to "get rid of" or otherwise "hide" or "seal" a criminal conviction from public view. Even if the conviction happened many years ago and the person has since lived an exemplary life, New York State does not allow for the expungement or sealing of the criminal record.

We view this result as being unfortunate and bad public policy. Our view is that people should get second chances at life and that rehabilitation should be promoted. If a person has a history of good conduct following a criminal conviction, they should be able to move on with their life and be a productive member of society. If you agree with our position, we would strongly encourage you to contact your state representative and to seek appropriate legislative reform.

Are there no options available to a person who has been convicted of a crime? While New York State does not have expungement or sealing, New York State does provide the following tools or mechanisms to a person seeking relief from a criminal conviction:

  • certificate of relief from civil disability
  • pardon
  • "440" motion.

In our opinion, however, these options are of limited viability. A governor’s pardon and a "440" motion are by design difficult devices to utilize with limited possibilities for a successful outcome. While, on the other hand, a certificate of relief from civil disability is substantially easier to obtain it is of limited usefulness. If you are considering using any of these devices to obtain relief from your criminal conviction, we would strongly encourage you to contact a lawyer to see if they are right for you.

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