Frequently asked questions
What are the benefits of expungement?
Finding a job
Most employers today require a background check before hiring a job applicant. These background checks will report arrest records, convictions and probation status. With an expungement, your criminal record will not appear during the background check. In addition, employers may ask if an applicant has ever been convicted of a crime. After your conviction has been expunged, you can lawfully answer “no” when asked this question.
Finding a place to live
Like employers, landlords conduct background checks when a potential tenant applies to one of their properties. If they discover a criminal record, they may deny your application or charge you a higher rent and/or deposit. When your case is expunged, you will have ease in applying for housing.
Getting professional licenses
Many professions require a state license to practice. Examples include those in the real estate like real estate agents, cosmetology, medical, social, and legal professions. Also contractors and other types of workers. If you are asked about convictions while applying for a state professional license, you are still required to disclose any convictions. You can be denied. However, applicants whose records have been expunged are more likely to be granted a state license by state licensing agencies.
Getting a loan
A loan can give you financial security after serving your sentence. Some loan agencies believe those with criminal records have difficulty paying back their loans. This may lead to your application being denied or your loan incurring higher interest rates. Your ability to secure a loan will not be impacted by your conviction if expunged.
Helping you in court
If you are on the witness stand in civil court, your credibility is an important factor in the verdict of the case. An opposing attorney cannot use a previous expunged conviction to question your credibility on the stand. Civil court cases include small claims, family law, probate cases and landlord/tenant cases. This does not apply to criminal cases where expunged convictions are not protected.
What does “expungement” mean?
Under Penal Code 1203.4, an expungement releases you from virtually “all penalties and disabilities” arising out of the conviction.
One of the many benefits is that an expunged conviction does not need to be disclosed to potential employers on job applications.
Also, most likely your criminal info is searchable all over the internet right now. We can help you remove it so anyone looking you up doesn’t see your past criminal info.
Am I eligible to have a conviction expunged?
Yes if you —
- Successfully completed probation for the offense, and
- You either:
- Did not serve time in state prison for the criminal case, or
- Served time in state prison, but would have served it in the county jail had the crime been committed after implementation of “Realignment” under Proposition 47.1
Then YES, you can expunge your conviction.
What about marijuana-related convictions?
The California Department of Justice reviewed and sealed all past marijuana convictions that are no longer considered crimes now that recreational marijuana is legal. This process should have been done by July 1, 2020. See California Assembly Bill 1793 (2018).
But, if you think your record still comes up or is searchable, or if you’re not sure, contact us and we can help you get rid of it.
What makes you ineligible for an expungement in California?
You are not eligible for expungement if you:
- are currently charged with a criminal offense,
- are on probation for a criminal offense or
- are serving a sentence for a criminal offense.
You are also not eligible for expungement if you are convicted of certain sex crimes involving children.
If you are not eligible for expungement, you may be able to get relief for your offenses through:
- A Certificate of Rehabilitation and/or California governor’s pardon, or
- Commutation of a California prison sentence.
After successful completion of probation, you can get the charges against you dismissed.
A judge may allow you to file the petition before probation ends which we can help with also.
While you get lots of benefits from expungement like employers no longer seeing you had a criminal conviction and people not being able to look your criminal info up, here are a few limitations:
Granting of this petition does NOT relieve you of the obligation to disclose the conviction if you’re running for public office, trying get certain licenses by any state or local agency, or for contracting with the California State Lottery.
It also does not eliminate from your record the fact that an arrest occurred or that the charge(s) were brought. Expungement gets rid of the conviction.
If you end up back in court with charges, in that context the conviction may still be alleged as a prior conviction in future criminal proceedings by prosecutors.
Granting of this petition does NOT affect DMV actions or future consequences for crimes involving operation of a motor vehicle.
Granting of this petition does NOT permit you to own, possess, or have in your custody or control any firearm if you are otherwise prohibited from doing so.
Granting of this petition does NOT seal your record. The case, including the conviction will remain public record. But, we can help you clean up your public record online.
Granting of petition does NOT relieve you from any obligation to register under Penal Code §290 involving sex offenses.
We can help you seal your New York criminal records.
Sealed records of the conviction itself will no longer be viewable by anyone, not the public, and not law enforcement, except under certain circumstances, detailed below.
There are major collateral consequences to your convictions including losing your immigration status, losing housing benefits, public benefits, loans for college or a small business, and even losing voting rights.
Even having a misdemeanor conviction on your record can result in collateral consequences, such as being denied a job.
What are the benefits?
Sealing a criminal conviction involves the destruction of most records related to the case.
We can also help you get your criminal info off the internet so people looking you up no longer see it.
There are only a few limited ways your sealed records may be viewed, and only specific people may have access, as follows:
- Any person that you designate;
- An employer if you apply for job that involves carrying a firearm;
- Your parole officer if you are arrested while on probation or parole; and
- Law enforcement or a prosecutor by a court order signed by a judge, but this is a rare occurrence, and mainly occurs if you are arrested for a new crime that in some way is related to the sealed crime.
How can I know if my crimes can be sealed? Which ones can be sealed and which ones can’t?
Misdemeanor Crimes Eligible for Expungement
Since a new wide-ranging criminal conviction sealing law was enacted in 2017, you may now apply for the sealing of many adult convictions, provided certain conditions are met.
The basic requirements for a conviction to be eligible for sealing are that you have:
- No more than 2 misdemeanor convictions, or 1 felony & 1 misdemeanor;
- Not committed any crimes in the last ten-year period (counted from the date of your conviction, or release from prison, whichever was later);
- No pending criminal charges or convictions;
- Not already obtained the maximum number (2) of sealed convictions;
- Successfully completed a drug treatment program or other court-ordered actions related to your conviction;
There are also situations in which automatic full or partial sealing of a conviction takes place without you needing to take any action, including:
- Certain marijuana-related misdemeanors, which are expunged and treated as if they never happened
- Cases that were ruled in your favor, such as a dismissal or not-guilty verdict
- Crimes committed by children (minors aged 13 or younger) or youthful offenders (minors aged 14 through 17)
Minor violations and traffic infractions, such as disorderly conduct or trespass
But, there are exceptions for more serious crimes that cannot be sealed, such as
- Crimes that are listed as Class A felonies, the most serious crimes under New York State law
- Certain offenses (though not all) which are defined as violent crimes
- Most sex offenses, especially any that require you to register as a sex offender
- Certain other felonies defined as ineligible for sealing under criminal justice statutes
How many of my convictions can I have sealed?
In general, only two criminal convictions may be sealed, and only one of them can be a felony. Although you can only seal up to two eligible criminal convictions, if you were convicted of several crimes for the same criminal act, they may be treated as a single conviction for sealing purposes.
Will a judge seal my records? How does the judge decide?
Before a judge will consider sealing your criminal record, you must meet certain conditions. To be eligible, you must meet the following criteria:
- At least 10 years must have passed between your sentencing or release from prison – whichever is later – and your application to the court;
- You have no current or pending criminal charges;
- You have no recent criminal convictions;
- You have not already obtained sealing of the maximum number of convictions allowed; and
- You have two convictions or less on your criminal record. This means that you have no more than two misdemeanor convictions OR one felony and one misdemeanor conviction.
What’s the process?
- Preparing an application to seal criminal records with required supporting documents, including the certificate of disposition for the conviction and a sworn statement of the reasons the conviction should be sealed, along with any other documentation that supports your argument for sealing.
- Submitting the entire application, along with supporting documentation, to the judge who sentenced you, or if that judge is no longer sitting in a court in New York, to any other judge who is sitting in the court where you were convicted. If you are attempting to seal more than one criminal record at the same time, you must present your application to the court in which you were convicted of the more serious crime.
- Serving the application and supporting documentation on the District Attorney of the county where the conviction was obtained. The District Attorney has 45 days to notify the court if he or she objects to your application for sealing.
The sentencing judge will summarily deny your application if you cannot meet the conditions described above.
If the sentencing judge does not summarily deny your application, and the District Attorney has filed an objection, the judge will conduct a hearing and may ask both sides for more evidence in support of their respective positions.
If the District Attorney does not object to your application, no hearing is needed, but the judge on their own may choose to conduct a hearing. Then the judge will issue a ruling on your application.
What factors does the judge weigh to make a decision?
- The time that has elapsed since your last conviction;
- The circumstances and seriousness of the offense for which you are seeking relief;
- The circumstances and seriousness of any other offenses for which you were convicted;
- Your character, including any measures you have taken toward rehabilitation, such as participating in treatment programs, employment, schooling, or participating in community service or other volunteer programs;
- Any statements made by the victim of the offense for which you are seeking relief;
- The impact that sealing your record will have upon your rehabilitation, and your successful and productive reentry and reintegration into society; and
- The impact of sealing your record on public safety and upon the public’s confidence in and respect for the law.
If the sentencing judge grants your application and your record is sealed, all material related to the case or conviction will be destroyed, including fingerprints, palm cards, mug-shots and arrest photos and DNA samples.
Different rules apply if you were arrested while you were a minor at the time of your sentencing. If you were sentenced as a juvenile delinquent, the record is automatically sealed to the public and is only available to certain participants in the criminal justice system, such as prosecutors and judges. When you turn 16 years old, you may be able to have your juvenile delinquency records sealed to the participants in the criminal justice system, such as prosecutors and judges, under certain circumstances. If you are convicted as a Youthful Offender, the record will be automatically sealed to everyone except the school where you are enrolled and officials in the criminal justice system. If you are convicted as Juvenile Offender, your records cannot be sealed, unless the judge grants you Youthful Offender status.
Is Expungement Permanent?
After having a conviction record sealed, all material connected to your case will be permanently destroyed, including evidence such as arrest photos, mugshots, fingerprints, palm cards, and DNA samples.
The record of your conviction will still exist but cannot be accessed or viewed by members of the public, law enforcement officers, or prosecutors, except under certain special circumstances already listed above.
Certificates of Relief from Disabilities and Good Conduct
New York law already allows you to obtain relief from the collateral consequences of criminal convictions in a few other ways. For instance, if you have only one felony conviction and/or any number of misdemeanor convictions, you may apply for a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities. This is not the same as sealing your criminal record and your record will not be sealed as a result. Instead, the Certificate of Relief from Disabilities removes some of the barriers that criminal convictions create, such as automatic bars for certain jobs like a real estate broker, security guard or nurse. The purpose is to promote your successful and productive reentry into society.
We can help with this too.
If you were convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony that did not result in time served in state prison, you apply for a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities at the court where you were convicted. If you served time in state prison for a felony conviction or you were convicted in federal court or in an out-of-state court, you apply to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision for a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities.
If you have been convicted of two or more separate felonies (and any number of misdemeanor convictions), you will not be eligible for a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities and will have to apply for a Certificate of Good Conduct.
You can also apply for a Certificate of Good Conduct if you are seeking a position that is considered a “public office,” such as a firefighter or a notary public. Your must meet certain criteria to be eligible for a Certificate of Good Conduct and your application must be submitted to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
How Does the Expungement Process Work?
New York criminal courts are granted discretion to seal up to two convictions, only one of which may be a felony. However, if you were convicted of multiple crimes for a single criminal action, the court may consider them a single conviction. Also, the sealing process is not automatic. You must follow certain steps in order to get a conviction sealed:
- Submit an application to the judge or court where you were convicted, including a Certificate of Dispositionand a notarized statement of the reasons for sealing your conviction, along with other documentation or evidence to support your request.
- Serve the application and supporting documents for your request to the country District Attorney’s Office, which then has 45 days to notify the court of any objections.
If there are no objections from the District Attorney, no hearing is required to approve your application, but the judge may choose to conduct a hearing regardless. The judge will dismiss your petition if you have not met all the requirements. Some of the factors the court may consider when reviewing your request include
- The circumstances and seriousness of the offense
- Your personal character and progress toward rehabilitation
- Statements by the victim(s) of the offense
- Time elapsed since your last conviction
- Impact of sealing your conviction on your rehabilitation, as well as on public safety
If you are denied or restricted from having a conviction sealed, it is still possible to get your rights back by applying for a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities or a Certificate of Good Conduct.
Can Certain Entities View What Criminal Records Were Expunged?
- Personal designation by you, such as an attorney or family member
- Background checks by employers for certain jobs that involve carrying a firearm
- A parole officer may view your records if you are arrested while on probation or parole
- Prosecutors or law enforcement officers by court order, which typically only occurs if you are arrested for a crime that somehow relates to the sealed crime
Sealing an Arrest Record in New York
Your arrest record can be sealed if the case was terminated in your favor—for example, if the charges were dismissed, dropped, vacated, or your conviction was set aside. (New York Criminal Procedure Law § 160.50 (2018).)
Sealing a Criminal Conviction in New York
Noncriminal offenses. Convictions for most noncriminal offenses—such as traffic infractions or disorderly conduct violations—can be sealed. (New York Criminal Procedure Law § 160.55 (2018).)
Drug convictions. Records for many, but not all, drug crimes can be sealed if you successfully complete an approved treatment program. Oddly, the statute does not apply to defendants who have successfully completed a drug diversion mandate and have had their cases dismissed. This anomaly has been criticized and arguably should be remedied by the legislature. (New York Criminal Procedure Law § § 160.58, 160.50 (2018); People v Batista, 2016 NY Slip Op 26306.)
Other misdemeanor or felony convictions. If you have no more than two convictions—only one of which may be a felony—you can petition to have your criminal record sealed after waiting ten years. The ten-year waiting period is counted from the date of the imposition of your sentence or ten years after your release from custody if you were incarcerated. Convictions for certain crimes, including sex offenses, Class A felonies, and violent felonies, can never be sealed. (New York Criminal Procedure Law § 160.59 (2018).)
DNA records. If your conviction was reversed or vacated, or if you were pardoned, any related DNA evidence may be expunged from the state DNA database. (New York Executive Law § 995-c (2018).)