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Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities

What You Need to Know

Laws governing Certificates of Relief from Disabilities and Certificates of Good Conduct were enacted to reduce the automatic rejection and community isolation that often accompany conviction of crimes. They set out to facilitate the rehabilitation of first offenders so that they can, for the most part, find employment without the onerous restriction of a criminal conviction.

Correction Law §753(1)(a), which authorizes the granting of a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities, recognizes that it is the public policy of New York state to "encourage the licensure and employment of persons previously convicted of one or more criminal offenses." Correction Law §753(2) further establishes that with respect to a "public agency" or "private employer," a certificate "shall create a presumption of rehabilitation."

Who is eligible for a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities?

New York Correction Law §700 establishes that a person is eligible to receive a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities if he / she has been convicted of a crime or offense, but has not been convicted of more than one felony. If you are wondering, a "felony" means a conviction of a felony in this state or of an offense in any other jurisdiction for which a sentence to a term of imprisonment in excess of one year, or a sentence of death, was authorized.

A plea or verdict of guilty upon which a sentence or the execution of a sentence has been suspended or upon which a sentence of probation, conditional discharge, or unconditional discharge has been imposed shall be considered a conviction. Some of our clients have asked us whether an individual adjudicated a youthful offender incur any civil disabilities. The answer, thankfully, is no.

What can a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities do and not do?

First, what does a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities do? In general, Correction Law §701 provides that a certificate may relieve an eligible offender of any forfeiture or disability, or remove any bar to employment, automatically imposed by law by reason of conviction of the crime or the offense. A Certificate of Relief from Disabilities will prevent the automatic forfeiture of any license, permit, employment, or franchise, including the right to register for or vote at an election.

While regaining the right to vote after a conviction is a satisfying development for our clients, the positive effect it has on sealing one's convictions from some employers – like those in governmental jobs - is the real value of having a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities.

Correction Law Article 23-A - which contains the authority for a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities - establishes parameters to safeguard against unfair discrimination against persons previously convicted of one or more criminal offenses by a "public agency" or "private employer". Correction Law §752 establishes that no applicant for any "license" or "employment," to which the provisions of this article are applicable, can be denied by reason of the applicant's previous criminal conviction or by reason of a finding of lack of "good moral character" when such finding is based upon the applicant's criminal conviction of one or more criminal offenses unless:

  • There is a "direct relationship" between one or more of the previous criminal offenses and the specific license or employment sought; or
  • The issuance of the license or granting of the employment would involve an unreasonable risk to property or to the safety or welfare of specific individuals or the general public.

In the very least, a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities means that a public agency or private employer must give consideration to the Certificate of Relief from Disabilities issued to an applicant by creating that all-important presumption of rehabilitation.

Keep in mind, a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities cannot do everything. For example, if one has been convicted of a New York DWI charge, a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities will not prevent forfeiture of driver's licenses. (There are other legal options that exist - regarding the suspension and revocation of driving privileges – which our New York DWI attorneys can handle for you)

Experienced New York Post-Conviction Lawyers

At Sullivan Brill, we can assist you in applying for a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities. Our New York post-conviction attorneys have been representing clients with criminal records for close to 15 years. We have set out to make sure that one's past does not destroy their future. If you or someone you know has been convicted of a state or federal crime and is looking for some remedy, contact us today. We can schedule your free case evaluation and speak with you about your situation.