Legal Aid Society

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 avenues of relief 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 helps people clear their criminal records. If you have a maximum of two convictions (one of which is a felony) that are more than 10 years old, you may be eligible to apply for sealing and representation in your application. The Project can also tell you if you are eligible for the many other types of record relief that can help to end the perpetual punishment of a conviction record.

The Exploitation Intervention Project works with trafficking survivors to help them vacate criminal convictions related to their trafficking and seal the records of those arrests. If you were convicted of a criminal offense as a result of having been sex or labor trafficked, you may be eligible to have your record sealed.

How To Get Help

Wrongful Convictions
If you are innocent and have exhausted all appeals for a conviction in New York City, 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

Or email: wcu@legal-aid.org

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 call 212-298-3120 or email CaseClosed@legal-aid.org.

To find out if The Exploitation Intervention Project is able to assist you in having your trafficking-related convictions vacated and the records sealed, contact Leigh Latimer at 646-385-5025 or lelatimer@legal-aid.org.

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.
  • Custody – The care, possession, and control of a thing or person.
  • 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.
  • Expunge – To intentionally destroy, obliterate, or strike out records or information in files, computers, and other depositories.
  • Felony – An offense of graver character than a misdemeanor and usu. punished by imprisonment for more than one year.
  • Foster Care – A system in which a child lives with and is cared for by people who are not the child's parents for a period of time.
  • Landlord – A lessor of real property; the owner or possessor of an estate in land or a rental property, who, in an exchange for rent, leases it to another individual known as the tenant.
  • Lawyer – Someone whose job is to give advice to people about the law and speak for them in court.
  • Lien – A claim on specific property for payment of a debt.
  • Party – Person having a direct interest in a legal matter, transaction or proceeding.
  • 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.
  • RAP Sheet – A record kept by law-enforcement authorities of a person's arrests and convictions.
  • Sealed Record – A record which cannot be revealed.
  • 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.
  • Vacate – To cancel or set aside.
  • Warrant – An official document approved by an authority (normally a judge) which gives the police permission to do certain things.