Written by attorney Richard C. Southard

What can I do to get my criminal record expunged in New York?

One of the questions I am asked most frequently on this site and in general is "How do I go about getting my misdemeanor/felony criminal record expunged?" It is incredibly frustrating because no matter how well this person has done with their life since their earlier legal troubles, I have to tell them that in New York, they can't. Now some more unscrupulous lawyer will try to make some money off of these people by offering to make a motion to vacate judgment under Criminal Procedure Law Section 440 but absent newly discovered evidence they are rarely successful and very costly. Why is it important? In this time of economic hardship, it is increasingly difficult for those with a criminal past to find legitimate legal employment. Many New Yorkers continue to be punished for mistakes made in their youth despite having lived a law abiding life since their earlier trouble. In fact, many have gone on to build successful families and careers yet they still are haunted by the stress and stigma of having a criminal record. Some have gone decades without new trouble and yet they are still denied the opportunity at expunging their conviction. At a time when society should be encouraging their continued success, it is instead stonewalling their hopes of a fresh start. With new laws in New York which permit the sealing of prior convictions upon successful completion of DIVERSION or similar DTAP Drug Court treatment, it is time for the legislature to right this inequality. Why should someone with up to four convictions get the chance at a clean record when they haven't shown the ability to lead a law abiding life but not others adversely impacted by their convictions? Of course, I am not suggesting that there should be an automatic sealing of records. However, there should be some mechanism where these individuals can petition the courts and allow their story to be heard. As it stands today, the only hope that some New Yorkers have to get their records expunged is to commit new crimes and get sentenced to an eligible drug treatment program and that is not justice. So of late, I have amended my answer to this question of expungement, now recommending the askers to take action and contact their State and local legislators to urge them to pass this legislation which will benefit themselves and many others like them. In the spirit of leading by example, I have created my own petition on collecting signatures to be forwarded to lawmakers at a future date. Sign my petition Below!

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