Criminal Law

Are Youthful Offender Records Sealed?

Yes, records for minors can be sealed in New York City. The relevant statute you need to know is CPL 720.35.

Legal language can be hard to decipher, so this article reviews what you need to know, who this law applies to and when, and how this can help a minor facing criminal charges.

Who Is a “Youthful Offender” in New York?

The law defines a minor as a “youthful offender” only if the person is charged with committing a crime when they were between 16 and 19 years old.

A person over 18 years old is no longer a minor. However, the youthful offender term is still used for them in this situation.

Being classified as a youthful offender is a good status to have if charged, because it gives you some added benefits in the criminal justice system.

What Youthful Offender Status Gives You

Being called a youthful offender means your records are now confidential. This happens automatically during the youthful offender “adjudication” process, which is the formal judgment that happens at sentencing.

Instead of having a criminal conviction on your record, it will be marked as a “non-criminal determination.”

All official records and papers on file are sealed if they are from:

  • New York courts
  • Local police agencies
  • The NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS)

These records include documents like the court transcript, court records, witness testimony, interrogation manuscripts and arrest records. You should know that some courts or police can unseal a criminal record if you commit a new crime or if it is relevant to a case. Read more on this below.

Who Can Still See Sealed Crimes From Youthful Offenders?

The records will be sealed to most background checks. However, certain people and agencies can still see the record if:

  • The jail or prison you are committed to requests the records.
  • They belong to your division of parole (such as your parole officer) or your probation department.
  • You are involved in an order of protection or family offense warrant, if added to the statewide registry list.
  • A school asks for any criminal records. Any designated educational official (DEO) can ask for these records if they work at the public or private elementary or secondary school where you or your child are enrolled. The DEO will not get access to any other official records, except for orders of protection or temporary orders of protection issued.
  • You are involved in a new crime, and an arrest warrant is issued.
  • Any other New York law specifically requires your records to be unsealed.
  • Any New York court gives specific authorization to unseal your records.

In summary, your school or your child’s school can likely unseal the records. They will also be unsealed if you are involved with new crimes or orders of protection.

What Is the Reason for Youthful Offender Status?

Minors in New York have some protection from the law already. Youthful offender extends up to 19 years old and helps prevent some kids from going into their adult lives with criminal records.

You must be eligible for this. A youthful offender must:

  • Not commit a felony
  • Not have any other criminal charges on their record

If you committed a serious crime or have other past crimes on your record, you can be tried as a minor or as an adult in New York courts.

There is still hope for youths with criminal records. Speak with a criminal defense lawyer about the possible defenses for your case and whether the youthful offender status applies in your situation.