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Crime, Crime, Go Away: Expungement in New York

We frequently receive calls from clients asking for our assistance in getting a prior criminal conviction removed (or “expunged”) from their record. Unfortunately, these conversations are usually brief and end with us informing people that expungement does not exist in New York and the conviction(s) will remain with them for the rest of their lives. The harsh reality is that New York law does not currently have any expungement provision that allows otherwise productive citizens to have mistakes cleansed from their permanent record.

In recent years there has been a growing movement to enact legislation in New York State that would create a system whereby individuals could apply to the courts to have prior convictions removed from their records. The New York State Bar Association endorses these legislative efforts and has provided their recommendations on the proposed laws. However, to date, the New York State legislature has not passed any such measures and expungement remains unavailable in the state.


While expungement is not available, New York law does have provisions that allow for the sealing of records of certain criminal offenses. Criminal Procedure Law (or CPL) Section 160.50 specifically requires the sealing of certain records. So, what is the difference between expungement and the sealing of criminal records? Expungement is the complete deletion of a criminal conviction; it’s as if the conviction never existed. Sealing is the closing of a record and strictly limiting who may gain access to that record in the future. In most cases, once a record is sealed, only certain governmental agencies (courts, prosecutor’s offices, and law enforcement) may ever gain access to it in the future. Once a record is sealed, it will not show in background checks that may be run on the individual therefore allowing them possible securement for employment, loans, etc.

Other Forms of Relief

So, without the availability of expungement and only a limited ability to seal a criminal record, where does that leave a person convicted of a crime in New York? Well, there remains two other possibilities that a person can pursue that may help them to alleviate the burden of a criminal conviction.

A Certificate of Relief From Disabilities is available for individuals who have been convicted of one (1) felony. This legal document restores certain individual freedoms that ordinarily are taken away once a person is a convicted felon (e.g: the right to vote, the ability to obtain certain professional licenses, etc.). Information on applying for this certificate can be found on the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervisions’ website.

Finally, there does exist a legal mechanism that can allow a court to vacate a previous conviction upon sufficient legal grounds: the writ of error coram nobis. Coram Nobis (for short) is a motion made to the court in which the judgment of conviction was rendered. However, this motion must be based upon some factual matter that was not in the court’s record that renders the conviction unconstitutional upon certain grounds (e.g.: the denial of property legal representation, a guilty plea induced by fraud or misrepresentation, etc.). It should be noted that the granting of a coram nobis by a court is relatively rare and is only available under limited circumstances.

The best way to make sure your record is clear is to hire a criminal or DWI defense attorney at the time your charges are filed. Competent and experienced representation may very well be the key in avoiding a felony conviction altogether making the need for expungement or sealing unnecessary. A criminal defense lawyer will be able to help navigate you through the process of defending your charges as well as advise you on the best way to protect your record for your future. Please contact us if you have criminal or DWI charges pending against you. Our attorneys are experience, knowledgeable, and waiting to help. Contact us by filling out our form here, email us at, or call us at (315) 215-0517. Team Green Lawyers: Working to give you back your life.