Tue 20 Feb, 2024 Criminal Defense

If Charges Are Dropped Is It Still on Your Record?

If you get your criminal charges dropped, you should also try to ensure the charges are not still on your record.

The answer to whether dropped charges remain on your record is complicated. This article answers that question and gives you steps you can take to ensure that your record remains clean.

If you are facing criminal charges in New York City, contact Cody Warner, P.C. for a free consultation. We know how to strategically navigate criminal cases in effort to make sure our clients do not get permanent criminal records.

Reduced vs. Dismissed Charges

The first step is to define a “dropped” charge. When a person is charged with a crime, the ultimate outcome of the case can involve the person pleading guilty to a lower-level offense. When that happens, the top charge is “dropped,” but the case is not outright dismissed. Whether the lower-level offense results in a permanent record depends on the nature of the reduced charge.

For instance, if a person is charged with felony assault, but the prosecution offers a misdemeanor plea that the person accepts, the felony charge is “dropped” but the person will still have a misdemeanor record. Further, the arrest charge of the higher-level felony offense could still be discovered, even if the plea was to a lower-level misdemeanor.

On the other hand, if the prosecution offers a plea to Disorderly Conduct (P.L. 240.20), which is a violation instead of a crime, then the person would not have a criminal record. Further, under New York sealing laws, the record of the Disorderly Conduct violation and the entire case would be sealed from public view, even though the record of the Disorderly Conduct violation technically exists.

The ideal outcome for any criminal case is for the entire docket to be outright dismissed instead of the defendant taking a plea to a reduced charge. When dismissal occurs, the defendant does not make an admission of guilt and the case is sealed from public view.

Sealed Records

In New York, even with the best possible outcome of dismissal, the court retains a copy of the file of your case. Of course, the file is sealed from public view, which means that nobody (except you) is entitled to review the file or even know about the existence of a case. In other words, if your case is sealed, the court clerk cannot even admit that there was a case for you. Practically speaking, when a case is outright dismissed, it’s as if the case never happened.

Although ideally the court’s records of your cases would be destroyed after your case is dismissed and sealed, there are some benefits of the record existing under seal. For instance, if you were wrongfully arrested and charged, you may want to use the court’s file as proof of a malicious prosecution against you. Ultimately, when a case is sealed, your privacy is protected, and the record can only be used for purposes approved by you.

Need Help?

If you are facing criminal charges in New York City, contact Cody Warner, P.C. for a free consultation. We can evaluate your case to determine the best strategy in effort to prevent you from getting a criminal record.