Tens of thousands of New Yorkers will have marijuana convictions expunged from their criminal records under New York’s new marijuana laws effective March 31, 2021. About 107,000 convictions will be automatically expunged.
A conviction on your criminal record is normally permanent. Marijuana convictions can lead to the denial of various applications, including Section 8 housing or student loans. Expungement means that these charges will not show up on your criminal history record search or your RAP sheet; cannot be used against you to deny you housing, student loans, or a job; cannot be found by law enforcement; and do not need to be listed on job or school applications which asks if you have been convicted of or arrested for a crime. Mug shots and fingerprints are destroyed and court records are sealed and marked “expunged.”
Expungements will affect third-degree and fourth degree criminal possession of marijuana and fourth degree and fifth degree criminal sale of marijuana. A state law enacted in 2019 previously expunged convictions for possession of fewer than 2 ounces of marijuana.
The only times the charges are part of your record is when you apply for a job as a police officer or as part of a background check for a gun permit.
It may be tempting to take things further and demand that your court records be destroyed. However, there is almost nothing to be gained by having sealed court records destroyed, and potentially a lot to lose.
Courts keep both electronic and paper records, so an extra step is required if you want the physical records of your conviction destroyed. To have your marijuana conviction records destroyed, obtain the form from the court system and file it with the court where you were convicted. There is no fee to file the form.
In most cases, having the physical court records destroyed would be advantageous. However, people who are not U.S. citizens should not have their court records destroyed. Marijuana is still illegal under federal law and convictions for anything beyond possession for personal use can be used by federal authorities for purposes of deportation. Any noncitizen can be deported for a conviction related to controlled substance. Noncitizens should not have their records destroyed because those records will be needed when they apply for a new visa, or have a green card and apply to become a naturalized citizen. Federal immigration officials will require applicants to produce documentation as part of the application process. A marijuana conviction can’t be vacated by a court without that documentation.
Also, if you have your court records destroyed, you will have no way to prove the expungement to a background check company that continues to incorrectly report the conviction .
If you are considering having your court records destroyed consult with Friedman & Ranzenhofer, PC, attorneys experienced in the civil ramifications of criminal convictions, before taking this irreversible step.