Friday, September 22, 2017

Ithaca Lawyer: Three Reasons to Seal Your Criminal Convictions

I can think of at least three primary reasons why someone would want their old criminal convictions sealed. On the other hand I can also think why someone may not care or see the point of sealing their old criminal history.

Why would someone want their history of criminal activity sealed from public disclosure?

Why would someone not care if their criminal history was found out?

Criminal Background Checks of Job Applicants Have Become Commonplace

These days everything is going onto the cloud. The ominous cloud can hold an infinite amount of data. Your whole life history good and bad is on record someplace. Did you know that over 90% of employers are doing criminal background checks of job applicants? See e.g. Society for Human Resource Managers, Background Checking: Conducting Criminal Background Checks (Jan. 2010).

Research has shown that ex-convicts have a 15-30% higher unemployment rate than non-convicts and that 60% of employers will not hire an applicant with a criminal conviction on their history (John Schmitt & Kris Warner, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Ex-offenders and the Labor Market (2010).

So the number one reason to seal a criminal conviction is EMPLOYMENT.

Under the new sealing statute CPL section 160.59 in conjunction with changes to NYS Executive Law now makes asking on any job application or job interview about sealed criminal convictions unlawful (illegal) and discriminatory practice.  They cannot make any inquiry into sealed criminal convictions under the new law. Employers will not see it on a background check nor can they ask about it in an interview or on a job application.

New York Executive Law § 296 – Human Rights Law – Unlawful discriminatory practices

15. It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for any person, agency, bureau, corporation or association, including the state and any political subdivision thereof, to deny any license or employment to any individual by reason of his or her having been convicted of one or more criminal offenses, or by reason of a finding of a lack of "good moral character" which is based upon his or her having been convicted of one or more criminal offenses, when such denial is in violation of the provisions of article [fig 1] twenty-three-A of the correction law.

16. It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice, unless specifically required or permitted by statute, for any person, agency, bureau, corporation or association, including the state and any political subdivision thereof, to make any inquiry about, whether in any form of application or otherwise, or to act upon adversely to the individual involved, any arrest or criminal accusation of such individual not then pending against that individual which was followed by a termination of that criminal action or proceeding in favor of such individual, as defined in subdivision two of section 160.50 of the criminal procedure law, in connection with the licensing, employment or providing of credit or insurance to such individual; provided, however, that the provisions hereof shall not apply to the licensing activities of governmental bodies in relation to the regulation of guns, firearms and other deadly weapons or in relation to an application for employment as a police officer or peace officer as those terms are defined in subdivisions thirty-three and thirty-four of section 1.20 of the criminal procedure law.

The number two reason to seal a criminal conviction is to obtain an OCCUPATIONAL LICENSE.

These days almost a third (see chart at top of blog post) of all jobs requires some type of special license. Whether it is removing paint, garbage, asbestos, using heavy machinery, styling hair, massage, etc. They all require an application and a certification. Some states even require travel agents, travel guides, and the like to be licensed. Getting an occupational license with a criminal conviction adds another layer of complexity.

Sealing your criminal conviction blocks public disclosure for licensing purposes as well. Unless your applying for a license to have a gun or be a law enforcement officer.

The number three reason to seal a criminal conviction is for APPLICATION to a: club, group, organization, condo, townhouse, HOA (Home Owner's Association), and/or rental property.

These days even applying for a golf course membership requires a background check and maybe even an interview. In many fancier clubs they only want certain types of members. In many communities they have rules about who can rent and who can live within their walls.

Why would someone not care about sealing their old criminal convictions?

1. RETIRED, so not seeking employment;
2. Not Looking for a LICENSE of any type;
3. Not seeking membership in a club, group, organization.

It's all about the FUTURE.

So if your are not concerned about your future employment, future license, or future membership  anyplace or anywhere don't bother with sealing your record of conviction.

Lawrence Newman is a partner in Newman and Cyr which focuses on DWI and criminal defense in the Fingerlakes region of New York State. contact