Opportunities to Have Record Sealed under New York Judicial Diversion Program for Drug Offenders
If you have been charged with a drug crime, there are ways to avoid incarceration, such as by entering a drug treatment program, having a felony dismissed or reduced to a misdemeanor or non-criminal violation, or obtaining some other favorable disposition from the court.
IntroductionStaying out of jail and getting the help you need can be invaluable to your future, but as long as you have a criminal record following you around, keeping a job or getting a new job, or even finding a decent place to live, getting into a good school or getting a loan, can all seem out of reach. Fortunately there are ways to have that record sealed, so that you are not legally obligated to report an arrest or conviction when applying for employment or completing other important applications that ask you to disclose a criminal record.
Three New York Laws, Three Options for Sealing Criminal RecordsThe three sealing statutes in New York are Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) sections 160.50, 160.55 and 160.58.
CPL 160.50 provides a full, permanent sealing of your criminal justice, law enforcement and court records, and also provides for the destruction of your fingerprint records. Full sealing under 160.50 is available after a favorable disposition such as an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal or a dismissal in the interests of justice.
CPL 160.55 provides for a partial sealing, where fingerprint records are destroyed and law enforcement records are permanently sealed, but court records are left unsealed. Partial sealing is automatic if you are convicted of a non-criminal offense, also known as a violation.
The third record sealing option is conditional sealing under CPL 160.58. Under this law, the record of your conviction is sealed if you successfully complete a drug diversion program, but it is automatically unsealed if you later get arrested for another criminal offense. Along with having a class B drug felony sealed, CPL 160.58 also allows you to have up to three prior misdemeanor drug convictions sealed in addition.
Strong, Knowledgeable Legal Representation is Crucial to Getting Your Record SealedIt is important to have an attorney on your side who understands the different sealing options and how they are impacted by the disposition of your case. For instance, if you get your case dismissed, you may not be able to have three prior misdemeanors sealed under CPL 160.58. Depending upon your particular needs and the particular jurisdiction your case is under, it may be better to seek a favorable disposition to get full sealing or conviction of a violation for partial sealing. A well-informed and experienced defense attorney can help you understand your options and fight for the best outcome for you.
Also keep in mind that when pleading a case down from a misdemeanor or a felony, prosecutors will often try to make the conviction non-sealable. Prosecutors may agree to dismiss charges or reduce a criminal charge to a violation as a condition of participating in drug court, but require the defendant to waive the ability to get any records sealed. Since the passage of the Drug Law Reform Act in 2009, it seems clear that the legislature intended for records to be sealed after successfully participating in the Judicial Diversion Program, but not all prosecutors think this way, and not all courts have ruled this way. It is important to have a skilled, aggressive attorney who is knowledgeable about these laws represent you in negotiations with the prosecutor. The terms of the diversion contract or agreement you make will control whether records get sealed or not, and you could wind up waiving valuable rights to have your records sealed if you are not careful.