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Is there a difference in sealing and expunging a criminal record?

| Jul 8, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

Many states allow for the expungement of criminal records after meeting certain conditions. In New York, state law does allow this for certain convictions, but expungement is rare. 

If you want to hide a criminal record from future employers or background checks in New York, you will most likely need to seal your record. 


The act of expunging a record is tantamount to erasing it from state databases. Expunged records are no longer visible to future employers, landlords, loan providers or police officers in New York. 

You also will not have to list expunged records on most applications when asked about your criminal history. Keep in mind that the federal government may still be able to discover criminal records for immigration purposes. 

The only records eligible for expungement in New York are certain marijuana possession charges; this excludes more serious marijuana charges such as trafficking. 


Other criminal records in New York may not be eligible for expungement, but you can seal the records in certain cases. Sealing a criminal record means that the record of your case still exists but it is not visible to the public. 

Sealed cases will not show up on a background check or criminal records search. However, they will still be visible to you or those you authorize. They will also be visible to some law enforcement and parole officers. They will only be discoverable to your employer if your job requires carrying a firearm. 

New York seals many cases automatically, including those where you received an acquittal or dismissal. Most convictions of minors are also in this category. 

For others, you may be able to request that the state seal your records after a certain amount of time has passed or after you have completed substance abuse treatment for certain drug charges. If you find that a sealed record is still visible in a search, you may request a correction. 


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