Across the United States, over seventy million people have a criminal history with at least one conviction. A single criminal conviction makes those individuals subject to a number of state and federal regulations and laws that limit their rights – their voting, housing, and employment rights, and their right to bear arms. Some criminal convictions also impact the convicted person’s driving privilege. Many of the rules regarding prior convictions are sensible – keeping convicted child molesters away from minors, for example – but some of the regulations are entirely unrelated to a convicted offender’s original crime and conviction.

Many of the rules regarding prior convictions are sensible – keeping convicted child molesters away from minors, for example – but some of the regulations are entirely unrelated to a convicted offender’s original crime and conviction.

If you are being routinely rejected by employers – or even by landlords – an old conviction on your criminal record may be the reason why. Beginning on October 7th, a new law in the state of New York will allow many New Yorkers to have their criminal records permanently sealed from the general public – from landlords, employers, and anyone else who is privately investigating an individual’s background.

Who will qualify to have their criminal convictions sealed? Under the new law, you will be eligible to seal up to two convictions – but only one felony conviction – provided that the convictions are at least ten years old and that you have been in no additional legal trouble since that time.

However, persons who were convicted of a sex crime or a violent felony will not qualify to have those convictions sealed. Prosecutors will be allowed to challenge requests to have convictions sealed; they’ll have 45 days after a sealing request is made to notify the court of an intention to challenge the request.


If a conviction that you need to seal is on your record, you’ll need to submit a request to the court where the criminal charge was originally filed and prosecuted. The details of the case, the conviction, and the sentence must be provided to the court along with the request for sealing. If the court agrees to a request to have a conviction sealed, the court’s decision will be entered into the state’s permanent records. The most immediate benefit of sealing a conviction is that conviction’s removal from employment background checks.

However, if a prosecutor challenges your request to seal, you may need an experienced Long Island criminal defense attorney to help you prove that your conviction should be sealed. The determination regarding whether or not to seal a particular conviction is ultimately up to the sentencing judge, who can – at his or her discretion – order a hearing to consider the individual’s character and any other relevant factors.


District attorneys and their staffs in both Brooklyn and Manhattan will be sorting through what they expect will be an avalanche of requests to have convictions sealed. Spokespersons for both offices insist that they are generally supportive of the new law. A spokesperson for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office told the New York Daily News that prosecutors in Manhattan do “not anticipate having to challenge the sealings, except on rare occasions.” Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez told the newspaper, “An old conviction for a minor or a nonviolent offense should not hold people back from moving on with their lives.”

A number of defense attorneys on Long Island and in New York City are already receiving inquiries from New Yorkers who are seeking to have old convictions sealed. One criminal defense attorney in Manhattan told the Daily News, “You’re talking about anybody who was convicted over ten years ago of an eligible offense. That could potentially be tens of thousands of cases.”

Melissa Ader, a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society’s employment law unit, told the newspaper that the new law will help New Yorkers have “a fair chance at finding a job.” Employers in this state are already prohibited from using criminal convictions as a reason for rejecting a job applicant, but according to Ms. Ader, the illegal practice nevertheless is common. Sealing convictions, however, will prevent noncompliant employers from even knowing that the convictions ever happened. “Really the best way for a New Yorker to have a fair chance at finding a job is for an employer to not know about that conviction,” Ms. Ader explained.


Those who are requesting to have a conviction sealed should understand that “sealing” a conviction is not the same thing as “expunging” a conviction. The expungement of a criminal conviction forever erases any trace of that conviction. “Sealing” a criminal record hides that record from the public but continues to allow law enforcement officials to see the information – in extremely narrow circumstances – as specified by New York law. Who can see a sealed criminal conviction in the state of New York?

– the defendant or the defendant’s designated agent
– law enforcement agencies acting within the scope of their enforcement duties
– state or local gun licensing agencies
– employers of prospective law enforcement officers
– the FBI, when conducting background checks for gun purchase applications

If the conviction that you want to have sealed in the state of New York is only eight or nine years behind you, don’t assume that you won’t be able to do anything to help yourself for another year or two. Sealing a conviction is a complicated legal procedure, so it makes sense to start preparing a sealing request – and to start compiling the information and documents that must accompany a sealing request – at least a year or more in advance. An experienced Long Island criminal defense attorney can help.

Sealing a conviction is not automatic, and the decision is ultimately made by the sentencing judge. Thus, if you are waiting for the ten-year time period to elapse, it makes sense to do the things that prove you have been rehabilitated and that you are now a productive member of the community.

Volunteer with a charity or some other community organization. Advance your education or seek additional job training. Stay out of serious debt, stay away from illegal drugs, and don’t get into additional trouble with the law.

Thousands of convicted offenders in the state of New York are being given a unique opportunity to seal their old criminal convictions and to move on positively and constructively with their lives. If you are one of those New Yorkers, do what it takes to have your convictions sealed, and contact an experienced Long Island criminal defense attorney for the legal help and advice that you’ll need.