Any criminal record can seriously affect your life and your sources of income. But a felony conviction can ruin your whole life. The type of crime can affect where you are allowed to live, your housing situation, whether you can get a student loan to continue your education, and even where you work. A federal or state felony conviction can drastically change your life – and not for the better.
The best-case scenario for you is having your criminal record sealed or cancelled.
This will make your life much easier, especially after you have paid your debt to society and served your sentence. Especially when you try to get your life back on track.
However, getting a criminal record sealed or cancelled is not an easy task. In some cases, it is impossible. In fact, there is only one provision in federal law for the removal of a criminal record, and there is no such law in New York law.
What is Cancellation of Criminal Record?
The cancellation of a criminal record is a legal act that removes or expunges a criminal record from the public records. In effect, it gives the impression that the criminal record never existed.
A person’s criminal record, or the part of it that is cancelled, is destroyed or erased so that no one can find the conviction or even the arrest in public records. This action is often pursued by people convicted of crimes, but most crimes and convictions are not subject to cancellation.
Cancellation versus Pardon
People who are ineligible for or unable to obtain a cancellation procedure can apply for a pardon.
Pardon is significantly different from the cancellation of a criminal record. A pardon does not remove a criminal record, it only removes the consequences of a criminal record, such as negative immigration consequences or the possibility of obtaining certain professional licenses. This means that when a person receives a pardon, there is still a criminal record on their record and if someone checks their background, such as a prospective employer, landlord or any other person checking their background, they will still see the criminal record. Having your criminal record cancelled means that your criminal record is permanently erased and no one will be able to see it again. Therefore, when applying for housing or employment you will not be able to state that you do not have a criminal record if you have received a pardon. But if your criminal record has been cancelled, you can say with certainty that you do not have one.
However, pardon has its advantages. If a person receives a pardon while they are still serving their sentence, the sentence will end immediately after the pardon is granted.
Unfortunately, pardons are very rarely granted. The President of the United States has to sign all federal pardons, and this does not happen very often, no matter who is in power.
To apply for a pardon, a person may only apply for it after at least five years have passed since their conviction. The application must clearly state the request for a pardon, the reason for the application and attach any evidence that may help their case.