In the summer of 2019, the state of New York passed legislation that effectively decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. The law also mandated automatic expungement of past criminal convictions for possession of 25 grams or less.
In September 2020, the State Unified Court System announced a new streamlined process by which individuals may go a step further and have those conviction records destroyed.
What does automatic expungement mean?
The 2019 law change required courts to expunge the records of all convictions under New York Penal Law sections 221.05 or 221.10. The courts sealed the records from public view, and they no longer appear in search results or public record requests. The sealed documents include all paperwork associated with the conviction, such as prosecution files and arrest reports. There are only two instances in which someone may view these sealed records:
- A law enforcement agency may view the records of a person who applies for a job with that agency.
- A pistol licensing bureau may view the records of a person who applies for a gun permit.
How can I have my record destroyed?
Individuals may now complete a request form to have the sealed records destroyed completely. The forms are available online and in courthouses, and there is no charge to file the request. Individuals must file the request forms in the court where the conviction occurred. Courts accept in-person filing with a valid ID, as well as notarized mail-in forms.
The new record destruction process offers individuals a clean slate, per state lawmakers’ sentiments that it is unfair to continue to label someone a criminal for an act that is no longer a crime.