New York’s new sealing law which authorizes the sealing of up to one felony conviction and two total convictions went into effect in New York last week and is already creating new possibilities for those with old criminal convictions. Up until recently a New York expungement law would be considered to be almost impossible. After all as experienced criminal defense lawyers there is rarely a week that goes by without a call from someone asking about “expunging” criminal convictions and we as attorneys were frustrated with what used to be the answer; that there was no way of sealing old criminal convictions in New York.
Like all the uncertainty surrounding all new laws no one really knows how impactful CPL 160.59 will be. One factor will be whether prosecutors routinely oppose applications to seal under CPL 160.59 or not. The other will be what types of hearings are used by the Court and lastly how generous will the Courts be in sealing old convictions.
Another question pertains to the use of prior alcohol related driving convictions to deny people driver’s licenses. The New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is currently applying a twenty-five year look back and denying those with three or more alcohol related driving convictions reinstatement of their driver’s licenses. These revocations are essentially turning into lifetime revocations. As we reported last month, our firm has already filed a lawsuit against DMV because we believe that prior DWI convictions cannot be used to deny people licenses if the Court (or the Department of Corrections) has issued a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities or a Certificate of Good Conduct.