The Differences Between Expunging and Sealing a Criminal Record … and How to Find Out if You are Eligible to Seal Your Record in New York
What does it mean to EXPUNGE a criminal record?
Expungement of a criminal record means the conviction is completely erased and cannot be resurrected. The law treats an expunged record as if the conviction never happened. In a state that allows a record to be expunged, a person with an expunged record can say they have never been convicted of a crime. When a record is expunged, it cannot be used as the basis for an enhancement under the law if there is a new conviction. An expunged record, at least in theory, should not be available to anyone, even law enforcement authorities. Only a judge can order that a criminal record be expunged.
What does it mean to SEAL a criminal record?
Sealing a criminal record means that the record is sealed and cannot be made available to the public. The conviction still exists, but it will not be reported as part of a background check for the purposes of employment, housing, education and other important purposes. A person with a sealed record can say they have never been convicted of a crime. However, a sealed record may still be used as the basis for an enhancement under the law if there is a new conviction. A sealed record is also accessible to law enforcement and certain other authorities, such as firearm licensing departments. Only a judge can order that a criminal record be sealed.
New York State does NOT permit criminal records to be expunged. New York only recently allowed for broad criminal record sealing of many non-violent felony and misdemeanor criminal records, including drug possession and driving while intoxicated (DWI/DUI) convictions, under CPL Section 160.59.