Some states allow a person to expunge their criminal record -- that is, have it disappear forever. Unfortunately, New York is not one of these states. However, New York will allow a person's criminal record to be sealed in certain circumstances. What does that mean?
In essence, sealing a criminal record means that the general public will not be able to access it. There are a number of benefits to sealing a record. First and foremost, with a few exceptions, an employer will not be able to access the individual's criminal record, making it easier for a person to find work.
There are a number of types of cases that can be sealed. For example, juvenile criminal records can be sealed. Cases in which a person is not convicted are automatically sealed. "Non-criminal" violations can also be sealed. Certain marijuana possession cases can also be sealed. Finally, certain crimes, be they misdemeanors or felonies, can be sealed if the individual completes a court-ordered substance abuse program, has completed the rest of his or her sentence and no further criminal charges against the individual are pending.
That being said, sealing a record does not totally erase it. Certain people can still access it in certain situations. First of all, the individual can request a copy of his or her own criminal record. In addition, if a person is applying for a license to carry a firearm, the agency to which the application is made may view that person's criminal record. The same is true for employers of positions that require a person to carry a firearm, including working as a police officer or in the military. Furthermore, prosecutors may still access a person's criminal record if they can prove to a judge that such access is required by justice.
Sealing a criminal record can be very advantageous to an individual. Since this post cannot provide legal advice, one can consult with a criminal defense attorney to learn more about how to seal a criminal record.
Source: FindLaw, "How To Expunge a Criminal Record in New York," January 13, 2014