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Wrongful Convictions, Appeals, Clemency & Sealing

The Legal Aid Society can assist with wrongful convictions, applications for commutation and pardon, and the sealing of past criminal records.

The Wrongful Conviction Unit was created to address the population of prisoners who have exhausted all possible avenues of defense and are still fighting for their freedom and to clear their names of crimes they did not commit.

The Criminal Appeals Bureau prepares commutation applications for eligible clients — individuals with excellent institutional records who have served more than half of their minimum term and are more than a year away from parole eligibility. CAB also prepares pardon applications for clients who have rehabilitated themselves but are facing deportation.

The Case Closed Project can help seal your criminal record. Under the current law, if you have two or fewer total convictions in New York (including up to one felony), you may be eligible to have your records sealed.

The Exploitation Intervention Project works with trafficking survivors to help them vacate prostitution-related convictions and seal the records of those arrests. If you were convicted of a prostitution-related offense when you were under the age of 18 or if your conviction was the result of force, fraud, or coercion, you may be eligible to have your record sealed.

How To Get Help

Wrongful Convictions
If you are innocent and have exhausted all appeals, you may write to The Wrongful Conviction Unit and request our questionnaire to be considered for representation:

The Wrongful Conviction Unit
c/o The Legal Aid Society
199 Water Street
New York, NY 10038

Clemency
Individuals who believe they qualify for clemency should apply online with the Governor’s Office. The site contains instructions and forms for applying for commutations and pardons.

Record Sealing
To find out if you are eligible to have a criminal record sealed fill out our online questionnaire, call 212-298-3120 or email CaseClosed@legal-aid.org.

To find out if you are eligible to have your prostitution-related convictions vacated and the records sealed, contact: KB White 646-385-5027, kwhite@legal-aid.org, or Leigh Latimer 646-385-5025, lelatimer@legal-aid.org.

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Terms You Might Hear

The justice system can be overwhelming. Get familiar with some legal terms and acronyms you might hear like appeal, adjournment, petition, jurisdiction, deposition, and affidavit.

  • Adjournment – A temporary postponement of a case until a specified future time.
  • Attorney – A person admitted to practice law and authorized to perform criminal and civil legal functions on behalf of clients.
  • Conviction – A criminal proceeding that concludes the defendant is guilty of the charged crime.
  • Delinquency – An offense or misdemeanor; a misdeed; A debt or other financial obligation on which payment is overdue.
  • Dismissal – Termination of a proceeding for a procedurally prescribed reason.
  • Evidence – A form of proof or probative matter legally presented at the trial of an issue by the acts of the parties and through witnesses, records, documents, concrete objects, etc., for the purpose of inducing belief in the minds of the court or the jury.
  • Felony – An offense of graver character than a misdemeanor and usu. punished by imprisonment for more than one year.
  • ICE – Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • Lien – A claim on specific property for payment of a debt.
  • Order – An oral or written command or a direction from a judge.
  • Parole – Early release of a prisoner who is then subject to continued monitoring as well as compliance with certain terms and conditions for a specified period.
  • Petition – In special or summary proceedings, a paper like a document filed in court and delivered to the respondents, stating what the petitioner requests from the court and the respondents.
  • Probation – The condition of being allowed freedom if they commit no more crimes and follow certain rules.
  • Proceeding – A type of lawsuit. For example: In Housing Court, a nonpayment proceeding seeks past-due rent; a holdover proceeding seeks possession of the premises.
  • TPS – Temporary Protective Status. Offers temporary legal status to certain immigrants in the United States who cannot return to their home country due to ongoing armed conflict, natural disaster, or other extraordinary reasons.