Who Can See Sealed Convictions
It may come as a surprise to some to learn that even if they are successful in obtaining a sealing order for an old criminal conviction under CPL §160.59, it does not mean that the certain governmental agencies may still have access to the person’s prior criminal history. While the new provisions of the law state that upon a judge ordering the sealing of an eligible offense, all records pertaining to the conviction shall “not be made available to any person or public or private agency,” it also carves out certain exceptions that allow specific entities to still have access to the records. Generally speaking, the entities that still have access to sealed records of convictions are governmental agencies with either a direct law enforcement, or pseudo-law enforcement function, and include:
- Courts within the unified court system
- Probation departments
- Sheriff’s offices
- Police Departments
- District Attorney’s offices
- The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
- The Office of Professional Medical Conduct
- Child Protective Services while engaged in an lawful investigation
Another issue that frequently arises in discussing a potential sealing application with clients is the effect of such order in obtaining a pistol permit. To be clear, even if a prior conviction is successfully sealed under this new law, it will still be disclosed when a person makes an application for a pistol permit. The new statute specifically authorizes that records of sealed convictions shall be made available to “any state or local officer or agency with responsibility for the issuance of licenses to possess guns.” Accordingly, even if a client is successful in having a prior conviction sealed, we always advise that they disclose the conviction to authorities when making application for a pistol permit.
How to seek for sealing order
If you are interested in seeking a sealing order for a distant criminal conviction, it is important that you know not only the legal requirements to obtain this relief, but also be certain that it will meet your specific objective in seeking the sealing order before you begin the process.