That is a question that is asked during your deposition, which is a question-and-answer session given under oath.
You might think the answer has absolutely nothing to do with your accident claim, your medical malpractice matter or your wrongful death matter in New York. The reality is that the events surrounding any criminal matter you may have been involved in most likely have nothing to do with the claims you are bringing seeking compensation for your injuries.
However, the purpose of asking this question is to assess your credibility.
The jury is entitled to know whether you have ever been convicted of a crime. They are entitled to know what crime you were convicted of and whether you did any jail time.
The defense also wants to know this information in an effort to get the jury to believe that you are simply not credible or believable.
If you have been convicted, that information is typically public. As part of their investigation process, the defense will always do a background check on you to determine whether or not you have been convicted of a crime. If you were convicted of a crime, and then are asked under oath during your deposition whether you are for convicted, if you do not disclose the fact that you were convicted, they will use that against you at trial. In fact, they will use it to destroy your credibility.
Importantly, the defense will then argue that you could not even admit to your past history and lied when you were asked this direct question at your pre-trial hearing. Then they will argue that if you lied at about one thing in your past, how can the jury truly believe anything you are saying now about how your incident happened and the injuries you are currently suffering?
The best practice is to immediately notify your attorney when you first meet with him about any skeletons in your closet that may be lurking there. This way your attorney is able to effectively deal with the events in your past.
The best practices recommendation is to simply acknowledge and admit your past conviction. Then we can deal with it during jury selection and during the course of your trial. Then it no longer becomes a question of you hiding something. Rather, by acknowledging it we get the jury to recognize that it has actually nothing to do with the claims you are bringing at this time.