How to Expunge my Public Records in New York

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What is a Public Record in New York?

New York public records refer to any information kept, held, filed, produced, or reproduced by or for a state legislature or agency. Public records may be audio recordings, visual recordings, electronically maintained data, and paper records. Under the New York Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), an agency can be any state or municipal department, board, bureau, division, commission, committee, public authority, public corporation, council, office, or governmental entity performing a governmental or proprietary function. This excludes the judiciary or the state legislature.

Public records provide important evidence of actions taken and decisions made by public officials and allow the government to account for its actions. Common public records include:

  • Birth certificates
  • Death certificates
  • Marriage licenses
  • Divorce licenses
  • Reports on publicly traded companies
  • Criminal records
  • Court records
  • Tax and property records

Although expungement and sealing are not technically the same thing, they both help serve the purpose of shielding a record from public view. That is, when a record has been expunged or sealed, it is not readily available to the public.

New York State allows certain offenses under specific conditions to be sealed or expunged by obtaining a court order restricting access to the records. We also offer record-sealing service to New York citizens who wish to start new lives without the handicap of previous misdemeanors.

Does New York allow Expungement?

Yes, but only for certain marijuana-related offenses. Expungement in New York means that the arrest, court case, and the decision on the charges brought against an offender will be treated as if they never occurred. Generally, criminal records are not permitted to be expunged except in certain marijuana charges. Some marijuana possession charges are automatically expunged for some past convictions and new convictions under specific conditions.

Individuals who smoked marijuana in public, held the substance out in the open, or possessed more than 25 grams may have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime under the old penal law which was in effect before August 28, 2019. Persons charged with Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the 5th Degree PL 221.10, a Class B misdemeanor, will have all records of this conviction automatically expunged. If an individual was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, PL, 221.05, all records of the conviction will be automatically expunged.

However, for offenses charged after August 28, 2019, criminal records will only be automatically expunged when the case is over for charges of:

Under this new penal law, persons found guilty and fined will have their convictions expunged but must still pay the fines associated with their offenses. Under the above-stated conditions, expungement is automatic. The offenders do not have to do anything. The state’s court system, the Division of Criminal Justice Service (DCJS), District Attorneys, and law enforcement agencies will be notified to expunge the copies of the criminal records maintained with them. Individuals concerned will not get a notification when this happens.

Note that other crimes involving marijuana not listed above cannot be expunged in New York. However, such criminal justice records for such crimes may be eligible for sealing.

How Do I Expunge My Criminal Record in New York?

Under the expanded decriminalization of marijuana possession in the state, persons with previous marijuana possession convictions in the state will have such criminal records automatically expunged. Expunged convictions are already sealed from view in virtually all circumstances. The records can only be viewed by pistol licensing bureaus when an individual applies for a gun permit and law enforcement agencies when an application is filed for a position in any of the agencies. A person who is satisfied with the confidentiality provided under the new provision may not apply for the destruction of expunged conviction records. However, if an individual decides to apply for destruction, the arrest, prosecution, and criminal history records related to the marijuana conviction will be destroyed, and there will be no record of both arrest and conviction. That is, it will be like the crime never happened.

To completely destroy such records or expunge marijuana-related convictions:

  • Complete the Application to Destroy Expunged Marihuana Conviction Record. All required information on the application must be provided. If you cannot remember the docket/case number, criminal justice tracking number, and the New York State Identification number, you can check the “unknown” boxes, and the court will search its records for the information when you file the application.
  • File your application in the same court where the conviction occurred. Applications cannot be processed if filed in a different court. New York does not allow expungement applications to be filed electronically. The application must be filed by mail or in person. The applicant or the attorney representing the applicant may file the application. No fees are required to submit an application. Individuals who file their applications in person must provide a valid government-issued photo ID. If the application is filed by mail, it must be notarized.

Note that individuals with Penal Law section 221.10 and/or Penal Law section 221.05 convictions in more than one court must file a separate application with each court to request destruction of their expunged marihuana conviction records.

An applicant will also receive an Acknowledgment of Application to Destroy Expunged Marijuana Conviction Record if the application was reviewed by the court. An Acknowledgment of Application informs the applicant whether an application was successfully processed or not. If an application is successfully processed, the court will send the application to other agencies in the case to destroy their records related to the applicant's  Penal Law section 221.10 and/or Penal Law section 221.05 conviction.

Will my Expungement Record Show up on a Background Check in New York?

In New York, expunged criminal records:

  • will not show up on a criminal history record search or RAP sheet
  • will not show up on a non-FCRA compliant background check
  • cannot be found by law enforcement
  • cannot be used against individuals to deny them housing, student loans, or a job
  • do not have to be listed on a job or school application that inquires if an individual has been convicted of or arrested for that crime

Note that the federal government may not accept New York State's expungement of criminal records. As of February 2020, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can still access and act on the expunged records of persons whose overturned convictions occurred in New York before August 28, 2019. However, if a conviction was vacated and dismissed by a judge, the immigration status will not be affected.

How to Seal My Criminal Record in New York?

The state uses a process termed sealing for cases that do not qualify for expungement but may be removed from public view. When a criminal record has been sealed, the record still exists. However, all related fingerprints, palmprint cards, booking photos, and DNA samples may be returned to the offender or destroyed. Digital fingerprints are not destroyed if an individual already has fingerprints on file from a different unsealed case. The copies of the criminal record with the DCJS, police, prosecutor, and in some instances, court records are removed from public view.

Persons involved in the following types of cases will have the associated records automatically closed or sealed:

  • Records of cases where the defendant got a good result: Good result means that the defendant got a favorable disposition, that is, an acquittal, dismissal, decline to file accusatory instrument, decline prosecution, or an order vacating a judgment.
  • Records of crimes committed by children and youthful offenders: In New York, children can be brought to court from the age of 7 if they are charged with a crime. Juvenile delinquents and youthful offenders do not have permanent criminal records.
  • Note, to be granted Youthful Offenders status, the youth must be at least 14 and under 19 at the time the offense is committed. The youth must also have no prior felony convictions and must not have been treated as a youthful offender before. If the youth is accused of a violent crime, Youthful Offender status may not be granted by the judge. Youthful offender records are automatically sealed.
  • Records of traffic violations and infractions. Under CPL §160.55, all traffic violations are sealed except for loitering for purpose of engaging in prostitution offense and driving while the ability is impaired (DWI). Persons convicted of traffic infractions before November 1, 1991, are required to ask the court to seal the records.

New York citizens may also ask New York courts to seal certain felony and misdemeanor convictions:

  • If they have no more than two misdemeanors or no more than one felony and one misdemeanor conviction and have been crime-free for 10 years. The 10-year period begins from the date of conviction or release from prison, whichever is later. No criminal convictions or current criminal cases must be pending.
  • If they have successfully completed a drug treatment program. Some convictions listed under the Rockefeller Drug Law Reform can be conditionally sealed.

Persons who have more than two convictions may still be eligible if their convictions are related to the same one or two incidents. For instance, if an individual was charged and convicted of multiple crimes during one incident, the court may decide to treat the multiple convictions as one conviction. Note that expunged marijuana convictions do not count toward the total number of convictions. Those convictions are treated as though they never occurred.

To apply to have records of eligible criminal offenses sealed, applicants must follow this procedure:

  • Request a Certificate of Disposition from a New York State court. Complete a separate request for each case required to be sealed. Take the completed form to the court and use the locator box to find the court's contact information. There is a $5 fee for courts located outside of New York City and a $10 fee for courts located within the five boroughs of New York City.
  • Complete a Notice of Motion and Affidavit in Support, otherwise known as a Sealing Application, and sign it in front of a notary public.
  • Attach any evidence such as proof of rehabilitation, verification of employment, certificate of relief from civil disabilities, community service, volunteer or charity work, educational transcripts, or letters of recommendation or commendation to the application.
  • Send the application by hand or mail to the District Attorney’s office. If the applicant is sealing more than one conviction and the convictions occurred in separate counties, each DA must receive a copy of the papers.
  • Fill an Affidavit of Service and sign it in the presence of a notary public.
  • Make a copy of all the forms and applications for record-keeping.
  • File the original applications and forms with the court.

There are no fees required for the filing of a sealing application. The application must be filed in the court where the most severe conviction on the applicant’s record was entered. If the sealing application is approved, the applicant will be sent a Seal Order that is signed by the court. To confirm that a record is sealed, an applicant may mail a completed Request for Seal Verification form along with a copy of the Seal order to the DCJS.

If the record of a person’s conviction is not eligible for sealing, such an individual may get relief from the collateral consequences of their convictions by applying for a Certificate of Good Conduct or a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities.

Who Can See My Sealed Criminal Records In New York?

When a record is sealed, it can only be seen or accessed by authorized persons. In New York, persons authorized to access a sealed record include:

  • The individual named on the record. Valid identification must be provided to access the record
  • Individuals authorized by the person named on the record. Valid identification and proof of authorization must be presented for access to be granted
  • The parole officer, where the individual named on the record is arrested while on parole or probation
  • An employer, if the individual named on the record applies for a job where the person will carry or operate a gun
  • A prosecutor, if the individual named on the record moves a motion to have a marijuana charge adjourned (ACD)
  • A law enforcement agency after a request to the court

How to Delete Bankruptcy Records in New York?

The New York Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) protects consumers from abusive credit practices while also allowing employers, insurance companies, lenders, and others to use credit reports to determine credit risk. The FRCA helps ensure the accuracy and privacy of personal information filed by credit agencies in consumer credit reports. Many people want to remove bankruptcy from their credit records for several reasons including the impact it has on their ability to get a new mortgage, job, or car loan.

New York does not allow citizens to remove bankruptcy records except for when there are legitimate reasons to believe that the records were reported incorrectly. Bankruptcy records are available as public records and can be accessed even through non-FCRA compliant records check services. Under the New York FCRA, citizens are afforded the right to know what their credit file contains, with the consumer reporting agency required to provide someone to help interpret the data contained in a credit file.

When a record has been reported incorrectly, an individual must notify the reporting agency in writing disputing the accuracy of the information. The reporting agency is required to reinvestigate and modify or remove the inaccurate data. Under the law, the reporting agency is required to notify any person who has received a report in the previous year that an error existed and furnish such a person with the corrected information. If adequate evidence cannot be provided, a bankruptcy record will only come off public records after 7 or 10 years depending on the type of bankruptcy.

What are Consumer Protection Laws in New York?

Consumer protection laws in New York are established to outline the rights of residents as consumers, protect them from scams, and enforce their rights against businesses in the state. These laws are set out to safeguard residents in commercial transactions and save them from financial harm.

Businesses in New York are required to comply with all relevant federal, state, and city laws, including the state consumer protection law and rules. Consumers are entitled to truthful information about the goods and services received. When a seller or manufacturer partakes in misleading advertising information or lies about the services or products they offer, consumer protection laws can help make them accountable for fraud. New York consumer protection law prohibits all deceptive or unconscionable trade practices in the sale, lease, rental, or loan, or in the offering for sale, lease, rental, or loan of any consumer goods and services, or in the collection of consumer debts.

A variety of practices may qualify as fraud. These include:

  • Doctors pushing patients into unnecessary medical procedures
  • Using fine print to mislead consumers about the goods or services purchased
  • Lying or using misleading information in advertisements about the quality or effects of products or services
  • Artificially inflating prices
  • Companies or corporate officials disappearing while holding client funds
  • Failure to disclose important information about products
  • Using bait-and-switch tactics to lure consumers into buying products or services for the wrong reasons

Also, following the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018, similar bills have started to emerge in the United States. The New York Privacy Act follows in that vein and is set forth to protect the interest of consumers in the state. Reintroduced in the 2021-2022 legislative session and sponsored by Senator L. Rosenthal, Assembly Bill A680 relates to enacting the New York Privacy Act by requiring companies to disclose their methods of de-identifying personal information. New York hopes to enact this bill in 2021 with the aim of putting safeguards in place around data sharing and to allow consumers to obtain the names of all entities with whom their information is shared.

Other New York consumer protection laws include:

  • New York Homestead Laws
  • New York Antitrust Laws
  • New York Deceptive Trade Practice Laws
  • New York Identity Theft Laws
  • New York Interest Rate Laws
  • New York Lemon Laws

How to Delete Lien Records in New York?

A lien is a legal claim against a property for unpaid debts. It serves as a security for someone who can repossess the property or take other legal actions to satisfy the debt. In New York, liens can be placed against real estate or personal property such as cars, jewelry, art, and other valuable items. A New York lien can last up to 20 years if renewed past the initial 10-year period. Although most sellers are aware of liens against their properties, liens may also be discovered when the process of selling a property or refinancing a mortgage is already underway. As required by New York State law, liens are permanent records accessible by the public.

In order to remove a lien on a property before the expiration of its statute of limitation, an individual may pay off the associated debt or dispute it by filing a petition at the court. After paying off a lien-holder, a release-of-lien form must be completed and signed by the lien holder in front of a notary. Subsequently, the form must be filed at the county recorder's office. Petitions filed at the court are more typically successful when the liens are invalid or have expired.

If a lien cannot be proved to be invalid or settled, an individual can only remove the lien record by running out the statute of limitations. For tax liens, the New York State has 20 years to collect a debt. The IRS has 10 years.

You can search lien records in New York State through the Public Inquiry System of the Department of State's Division of Corporations, State Records, and Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). The UCC Public Inquiry System allows users to search the complete UCC databases. The database includes:

The Public Inquiry system allow users to conduct a search through three options:

  • NYS Standard Debtor Search: This option provides the ability to search and receive the same results as can be obtained by an "official" search performed by the Division of Corporations, State Records and UCC.
  • Filing Number and Date: Users can find a record by entering the file number and the file year.
  • Other Debtor Name Search Options and Secured Party Name Search: Users can search lien records by individual or business name. This option has the unique feature of the availability of three search engines which allow for greater flexibility when searching for name variations.

Note that search results are provided in the form of a printable data report or viewable images of the lien record.

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