A question that I routinely field as a criminal defense attorney and sealing lawyer in New York is whether or not a mistake made in one’s youth relating to a conviction for petty theft, stolen property, shoplifting or larceny can be sealed or expunged later in life. Although there is no short answer to the question, the answer is both yes and no. Yes, New York now permits or allows a person convicted of Petit Larceny, Fifth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, New York Penal Law 155.25, New York Penal Law 165.40 and other crimes relating to shoplifting to have those offenses sealed as of October 2017. However, the answer still remains a firm “no” as to expunging these crimes. Despite this lack of expungement, however, because New York Criminal Procedure Law 160.59 is fairly expansive as to sealing, the potential value of a motion to seal pursuant to NY Crim. Pro. Law 160.59 cannot and should not be overlooked by anyone who wants to shield themselves from their criminal past. In fact, a successful application for sealing pursuant to NY CPL 160.59 can “block” the prying eyes of potential public or private employers.
Without going into too much detail as to eligibility for criminal conviction sealing, the process to pursue such a sealing and the practical effect of sealing on your criminal record, I will touch on the important elements of the same as it applies to cases involving shoplifting as a misdemeanor or felony. The following also applies to other Petit Larceny and Grand Larceny related offenses. First, because New York will allow the sealing of up to two misdemeanor criminal convictions or one felony crime, if you were arrested for shoplifting in Syracuse, White Plains, Kingston, Rochester, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Buffalo or Poughkeepsie, and convicted of either or both NY PL 155.25 or NY PL 165.40, on its face you would be a candidate for sealing as long as these convictions occurred more than ten years ago.
Assuming that you currently do not have any pending criminal cases, your criminal defense attorney or sealing lawyer can file a motion with the court of your sentencing in order for that judge to use his or her discretion and authority to seal your case. At the same time, your sealing attorney must serve this motion upon the District Attorney of the County where you were prosecuted to conviction so he or she can respond. Prosecutors have a 45 day window to do so. If they do protest the sealing of your case, the judge shall conduct a hearing where he or she will ultimately weigh many factors before granting or denying your application for sealing and “expungement”.
Obviously, the value of a sealed criminal record cannot be overstated. Barring some exceptions such as in law enforcement, a sealed criminal conviction may not be expunged or vacated from your record, but employers would not be able to “see” you criminal past of up to two misdemeanors nor could they use a criminal conviction against you. In fact, the law prevents employers, subject to some exceptions, from even inquiring about your sealed arrest or holding a sealed criminal conviction and record against you. What this now means is that in many circumstances, the employment and career opportunities that were closed to you due to a lapse in judgement ten plus years ago can now be “cleansed” from your record. Take a moment to think of how you have been hindered by this or these convictions. Now embrace and welcome the fact that if you and your sealing attorney advocate in the strongest way, provide your sentencing court with the right materials, and draft a strong and viable motion, you will have the opportunity to free yourself from your criminal record.
To better understand how sealing works, who is eligible, the process, and practical implications of a sealed record consult with a New York sealing attorney and review the abundance of materials available both on this blog and Saland Law PC’s New York Sealing Law information page.
Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors. The New York sealing and expungement lawyers at Saland Law PC represent clients in Criminal Procedure Law 160.59 motions and applications throughout the entire State of New York.