What Happened to Getting a Second Chance?

Posted by Steven G. Brill | Nov 23, 2015 | 0 Comments

In 1993, a 25 year old woman living in New York pleaded guilty to bank fraud, and received one day in jail, six months of house arrest, and four years of probation. She did her time, began to pursue nursing school, and was able to move forward and put the whole incident behind her - or so she thought.

In 2010, while in her last semester of college, the woman filed a petition for expungement of her criminal record. This is because she was deeply concerned (and with good reason) that her fraud conviction would come back to haunt her as she tried to find a job. However, her expungement was denied by Judge Raymond Dearie, who simply had no other choice.

Why Was Expungement Denied?

This woman's case is just one of countless stories in which first-time, non-violent offenders have rehabilitated, paid their debt to society, and yet still face tremendous difficulty in getting a job due to their blemished record. Ironically, she had been so successful in rehabilitating that she no longer demonstrated “exceptional circumstances” which would justify expungement, and was forced to give up nursing school.

Anyone who is convicted of a crime in New York or on the federal level will have a very tough time expunging their records. This is because expungements are only granted under “exceptional circumstances,” which include mass arrests without probable cause and unconstitutional arrests. To lawmakers and prosecutors, inability to find a job is not a valid ground for expungement, no matter how much a person has turned their life around.

It can be extremely tough to expunge your record. Call (646) 741-3856 for tough defense against criminal charges.

It's Time for Expungement Reform

Although he was forced to deny the woman's expungement application, Judge Dearie has been an outspoken advocate for changes to the way expungements are granted. In his ruling, he quoted a previous ruling from Eastern District Judge John Gleeson which stated:

“[I] sentenced her to five years of probation supervision, not to a lifetime of unemployment.”

Numerous studies have linked unemployment to recidivism, or repeat offenses, and there has long been a link between criminal records and inability to find employment. People who are convicted of crimes pay for their mistakes with either their money or their freedom – nothing is gained by hampering a person from becoming a productive member of society long after they have served their sentence and paid their debt.

Call (646) 741-3856 Today

Criminal records exist for a reason, and we are certainly not arguing that all convicted individuals should have their records expunged. However, we do strongly believe that when someone has turned their life around, they deserve a second chance. At Sullivan & Brill, our experienced New York criminal defense attorneys fight to defend our clients against criminal conviction, as we know how serious the impact can be.

Although there is no law in New York to expunge a criminal record, there are still options like applying for a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities or terminating your probation early. Sullivan & Brill, LLP can help you understand those options and represent you if you choose to move forward with one of them.

About the Author

Steven G. Brill

Steven Brill is a founding Partner of Sullivan Brill, LLP, which was established in 2001.  Mr. Brill concentrates his practice to Federal and State Criminal Defense, and Post-Conviction Litigation.  Steven earned a BA in history at the George Washington University and graduated with cum laude ho...


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