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How New York handles sealed criminal records

The legal consequences of an action in New York may be nothing like what you would face in another state, and the remedies available to you may be completely different, too. Your criminal record is one such example.

In many states, the courts may expunge your record in certain circumstances, meaning they erase it. However, in New York, the best you may do is to have the record sealed.

What it means to seal a record

Sealing means that when a landlord, employer or other member of the public does a background search for your criminal record, the person would not be able to see it. Not only is it invisible to the public, but also elements such as your booking photos, DNA samples and fingerprint cards are either destroyed or given back to you.

Who can see a sealed record

You can still see your own sealed record. People from law enforcement agencies may request and receive it from the court, and so could an employer who allows you to carry a firearm on the job. A prosecutor or parole officer may also have access to it. New York rules do not apply if law enforcement in another state arrests you on a state or federal charge.

When a record is automatically sealed

There are times when you do not have to take any action to get your record sealed. For example, it is automatic if you receive an acquittal or a dismissal. Even if you do get a guilty verdict, the judge could decide to change it before sentencing you and seal your record. A decision by the prosecutor or by law enforcement not to pursue a case against you would also result in a sealed record.

A child may have his or her record sealed, but it typically depends on the specifics of the case and whether the court decides to try the minor as a juvenile or youthful offender.

The court also seals certain infractions without requiring a request. For example, you would not have to ask if you receive a violation for posting advertisements illegally, loitering, trespassing or disorderly conduct, among others.

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