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New York Sealing

When a defendant is convicted of a crime in New York, the records of the case are public. This means that if a criminal background check is performed for a job or for any other reason, the details of the conviction are accessible. The impact is that those with criminal records generally have a more difficult time finding a job, renting an apartment or even joining the military. If a criminal record is sealed, then although the record still exists, it is hidden from the public. Until recently the sealing of a criminal record was available under only very limited circumstances. Under recently passed New York Criminal Procedure section 160.59, Sealing of criminal records, a wider range of criminal convictions is eligible for sealing. If you have been convicted of a crime and would like your record sealed, it is important that you contact an experienced New York sealing lawyer who will review your record and explain your legal rights under the new law.

Effect of sealing

While sealing is sometimes referred to as expungement, there is a difference. Sealing means that the criminal record is hidden from public view. This means that all of the court records related to the defendant’s arrest, prosecution and conviction are hidden from the public and from most government agencies. However, law enforcement can access the records, as can the courts and agencies who issues gun licenses.

On the other hand, expungement means that the record is erased. Under New York law expungement is not an option.

Eligibility for sealing

Even under the new law, not every conviction is eligible for sealing. Defendants seeking to seal convictions must first file a motion. In order to ensure that your motion for sealing has the best chance for being granted, it is important that you work with an experienced sealing attorney who is familiar with the New York criminal court system.

The reviewing judge will take several factors into consideration.

Seriousness of the crime

Records of the most serious crimes cannot be sealed. For example, sealing is not available for sex crimes requiring registration under the Sex Offenders Registration Act. Convictions for crimes classified as violent crimes such as assault in the first degree, burglary in the first degree, or criminal sale of a firearm in the first degree cannot be sealed. Class A crimes such as arson in the first degree, kidnapping in the first degree and operating as a major drug trafficker are also not eligible for sealing.

Furthermore, when considering a motion to seal, the judge will look not only at the charge for which the defendant was convicted, but also at the initial charge. Thus, if pursuant to a plea agreement, for example, the defendant agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge, the judge considering the sealing application will consider the original charge and the circumstances on which the original charge was based.


Before a conviction can be sealed, it must have been on your record for at least 10 years. In addition, in calculating the 10 year timeframe, periods of incarceration are excluded.

Number of convictions

Only 2 convictions can be sealed, only 1 of which can be a felony. Thus, if a defendant has already had 2 convictions sealed, an application to seal another conviction will be denied.

Character of the defendant

The court wants to see that the defendant has taken steps toward improving his or her life before granting a motion for sealing. For example, going to school, showing steady employment, completing a treatment program, and doing volunteer work, show the court that the defendant is working toward rehabilitation or has been rehabilitated. On the other hand, if defendant has been convicted of yet another crime, or has been arrested or charged, the motion for sealing will be denied.

Automatic sealing

There are convictions that are automatically sealed without the defendant having to make a request. For example, under New York Criminal Procedure section 160.50, if the case ends in an acquittal, dismissal, a decline to prosecute, or an order to vacate a verdict, the record is automatically sealed. Similarly, if you were a child or juvenile offender whose case was handled by Family Court, the criminal record will be sealed.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you have been convicted of a crime and would like to learn about getting your record sealed, it is important that you are represented by someone with experience. The sealing attorneys serving clients in New York at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have years of experience successfully representing clients in New York criminal courts accused felonies and misdemeanors. Contact us at 800.696.9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve clients in the following locations: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.

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