For many people, a criminal conviction remains a challenging obstacle to obtaining some of the basic civil rights that many take for granted. The most frequent “disabilities” that person convicted a crime face are bars from some employment and the ability to obtain certain licenses. For example, without a Certificate of Relief (from civil disabilities) or a Certificate of Good Conduct, a person with a criminal history may not be able to get a license to sell real estate, a wholesale liquor license, and might be denied a job as security guard, an insurance broker or school bus driver. At Sullivan & Brill, we are often asked about the process of obtaining the certificates needed in order to restore most, if not all, of a person's rights.
The good news is the process of obtaining a Certificate of Relief does not require the participation of a lawyer. Follow the steps below to apply for a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities yourself. The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision website has all the information needed to apply. It is located at http://www.doccs.ny.gov/program_restoration.html. The basic “five Ws” are summarized below.
If you have been convicted of only one felony, or several misdemeanors, you are eligible for a Certificate of Relief. If you have been convicted of more than one felony, you may apply for a Certificate of Good Conduct. A Certificate of Good Conduct has the same effect a Certificate of Relief, but there is a timing restricting (See “When” below). If you have an out of state conviction but are currently living in New York, you may apply to the Board of Parole for a Certificate of Relief.
As mentioned, a certificate of relief can remove bars to certain employment, allow for licensure, and remove specific restrictions imposed in your sentence. There are some things that a certificate cannot do, or often may not do; that restores your right to hold public office and to own and possess firearms. With respect to firearms, there is a section of the application form that indicates handguns and long-guns, however, it is our experience that these Certificates are rarely, if ever, granted. Regarding holding public office, it is possible to restore your right to hold public office through a Certificate of Good Conduct. We suggest if gun rights or public office is your goal you call the Certificate Review Unit at (518) 485-8953.
Finally, a certificate cannot restore your voting rights, but that is because your right to vote is automatically restored when you complete your maximum sentence or are discharged by the Board of Parole!
If you are currently on probation or parole, you should discuss your application with your parole or probation officer. Be aware, that a Certificate of Relief or Good Conduct granted while you under supervision is temporary and may be revoked. Once you successfully complete your supervision, the certificate becomes permeant.
If you have completed your prison term and probation/parole, you should download the form application, available at http://www.doccs.ny.gov/pdf/DOCCS-CRD-Application_Instructions.pdf.
Fill it out completely, sign it in the presence of Notary Public. If you served time in a New York State facility or were convicted of a federal or out of state crime, send it to
STATE OF NEW YORK DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND COMMUNITY SUPERVISION ATTN: CERTIFICATE REVIEW UNIT
The Harriman State Campus – Building 2
1220 Washington Avenue Albany, NY 12226-2050
If you DID NOT serve time in New York State correctional facility, you must submit a slightly different form, available at https://www.nycourts.gov/forms/criminal/pdfs/DPCA-52.pdf. It must be submitted to the Court that sentenced you. The easiest way to determine how that particular court operates is to call the court locator box available at https://www.nycourts.gov/courthelp/Criminal/CRDApplication.shtml
You are eligible for a temporary Certificate of Relief while on probation or parole. Once you are released from a correctional facility and complete your post-release supervision, you may apply for a Certificate of Relief. To obtain a Certificate of Good Conduct, however, the timing is a little more complicated. You must wait five years if your criminal record includes a conviction for an A or B felony. If your most serious felony is a C, D or E felony, you must wait three years. If you have only misdemeanors on your criminal record then the waiting time is one year. Note, that the waiting period starts when you were last released from prison or jail to post-release supervision or were released from prison or jail by serving your maximum sentence, or at the time of your last criminal conviction -- whichever of these events comes last.
The reasons to apply for a certificate are personal and unique for each individual. At Sullivan & Brill we believe that by serving your sentence, you have taken the first step in moving forward with your life, and we support your right to take full advantage of the law that restores your ability to make the most of your future. Although it is our opinion that this process is designed to be completed without the assistance of a lawyer, we are always available for and committed to, those in need of legal representation for criminal defense, personal injury and civil rights violations.