New York Criminal Law: The Facts About Criminal Records

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One of the consequences of being arrested is that you're likely to have a criminal record afterward. But what does that really mean and how does it affect your life afterward? The answer to that question may depend upon whether your crime was classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. Our legal expert, whose practice represents clients in New York, Suffolk, Nassau and surrounding counties, explains the facts about New York criminal records.

New York Criminal Defense Lawyer Elliot Schlissel

There are two types of crimes in the State of New York – misdemeanors and felonies – and this is generally true throughout the United States also, according to Elliot Schlissel, a New York criminal defense lawyer. He explained what each means:

  • New York Misdemeanors: Misdemeanors are lower level crimes, generally punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year in jail, and there are gradations of misdemeanors, the highest misdemeanor being an 'A' misdemeanor.
  • New York Felonies: Felonies are more serious crimes, punishable by more than one year in jail, and there are also gradations in felonies such as an 'A' felony, a 'B' felony and a 'C' felony – an 'A' being the most severe crime and having the most severe penalty.

The consequences of having a criminal record

The consequences of having a New York criminal record go beyond a simple “record,” according to Schlissel. He told us:

In New York, if you are convicted of a felony, you lose your right to vote. It also becomes extremely difficult without a court order to get any type of license such as a teaching license, to become a CPA, to become a lawyer or a doctor. Also, because criminal convictions create a criminal record for the individual – and it is much easier for prospective employers to research whether an individual has a criminal record due to today's use of the Internet. Some employers hold that against prospective employees which makes it harder for the person to obtain employment.

Can a NY criminal record be expunged?

Although there is no “official” procedure in New York to expunge a criminal record other than a pardon from the Governor, Schlissel says that New York does have a procedure that provides relief from civil disabilities for persons convicted of crimes and this reduces the negative impact of criminal convictions in some cases.

Similarly, if a person is charged as a minor, it is often possible to obtain a plea bargain arraignment for youthful offender status. Schlissel says, “This seals the minor’s criminal record to the public. However, under certain circumstances, police investigating future crimes are able to look into that minor’s record.”

Explaining your record to New York employers

Do you have to tell a prospective employer about your criminal past? That's a question which Schlissel says he gets asked all the time. He continued:

My experience is that every employment application asks whether the person has ever been convicted of a crime. I’ve had a number of circumstances where individuals I have represented on criminal matters have lied to their employers and obtained employment, even though they had criminal convictions for various crimes. In a large majority of those situations, the employer at some point in time does a follow up investigation and ascertains that the individual had a criminal record and that results in the individual being fired.

I have heard from individuals who have been convicted of felonies that very often the types of employment available to them afterward are extremely low end jobs that no one else wants. I have specifically had an individual convicted of a felony tell me that the type of jobs available to him were those in car washes. The individual actually said to me that if you went around to the car washes in the area, you’d find that a large majority of those individuals employed there are either illegal aliens or people that have been convicted of felonies, because those are the only jobs felons can obtain.

Don't let that become your destiny. If you've been involved in a New York criminal matter, contact an experienced New York criminal defense lawyer to discuss your situation. You may have options available to you that you don't realize.

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