Capital Region Legal News

Friday, September 23, 2016

Federal Court of Appeals Decides Pivotal Criminal Expungement Issue

In August 2015, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals considered an important expungement issue involving a home health aide who was unable to secure gainful employment due to a prior criminal conviction on her record. The case involved a woman with a 14-year old conviction for feigning injuries following an automobile accident. As a result, she has been  unable to keep nearly a half-dozen jobs after employers run a criminal background check – and she worked toward having the record expunged.

In 2015, a Brooklyn District Court judge issued an order effectively sealing the woman’s criminal history, citing the need to avoid the “life sentence” often endured by those with convictions who are unable to find a job. Despite the Court’s awareness that the decision to expunge the conviction was likely to be met with criticism, the Court forged ahead with its ruling – knowing it would likely be a long-shot.

Unfortunately, the Court was correct in its speculation, and the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s Office took up the appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Following a review of the record, the Appeals Court overturned the expungement, citing that the Court did not have jurisdiction to erase the woman’s record. Specifically, the Court held that the expungement was improper “because Doe’s conviction was valid and the underlying criminal case had long since concluded.”

The Court further explained that Congress has allowed expungements in very narrow circumstances – namely, those involving juvenile or young drug offenders. The Court further reasoned that “[Congress] might consider [expanding expungement jurisdiction] for certain offenders who, like Doe, want and deserve to have their criminal convictions expunged after a period of successful rehabilitation.”

In New York, an expungement is possible only in very limited circumstances – and does not actually erase the individual’s criminal record entirely. If an expungement is successful, the individual’s record is sealed – or “set aside” – from viewing by employers or members of the general public.

Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today!

If you are facing criminal charges, contact a criminal defense attorney at Ianniello & Anderson, P.C. today: 518-350-7755.

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