Everyone makes mistakes, and when these mistakes lead to a criminal record, they can make it much harder to find employment. However, a criminal record doesn’t always mean the end of someone’s chance to become a firefighter. Although some criminal convictions in New York disqualify a person from holding public office (including as a firefighter), there are ways to have this prohibition lifted. A person who has received a Certificate of Good Conduct or whose criminal record has been sealed can still become a firefighter.
Is Everyone with a Criminal Record Barred from Working as a Firefighter?
Not every criminal conviction bars a person from public office. In general, convictions for crimes that a person committed while in office are more likely to result in disqualification than others. Anyone who has questions about whether his/her conviction is a legal disqualification from holding public office should contact an attorney.
Even if a criminal conviction does bar someone from holding public office, that person can still become a firefighter by obtaining a Certificate of Good Conduct or by having his/her criminal record sealed.
What is a Certificate of Good Conduct?
A Certificate of Good Conduct (CGC) is a certificate that removes legal disabilities from persons convicted of offenses in New York. This is different from record sealing, which makes a criminal record unavailable for anyone except certain legal authorities to view. A CGC does not hide a person’s record, but it does restore certain rights, including the right to hold public office. To apply for a CGC, a person must wait a certain amount of time since his/her last conviction or imprisonment (1 year for a misdemeanor; 3 years for a class C, D, or E felony; 5 years for a class A or B felony) and have good conduct in the community during the waiting period.
It’s important to note that the state does not have to grant every application for a CGC. Even if the state does grant the application, it may only restore some, but not all, lost legal rights.
For that reason, it’s best to have an attorney help with the application. An attorney can make sure the paperwork is filed correctly and make the best arguments to restore all of a person’s legal rights.
A Certificate of Good Conduct is not the same as a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities. A Certificate of Relief from Disabilities is a different certificate that people convicted of a crime in New York can apply for. It has different application requirements and can be easier to receive, but it does not restore the right to hold public office, so someone with a Certificate of Relief cannot become a firefighter.
Can a Fire Department Discriminate against Someone with a Criminal Conviction?
Usually no, but there are exceptions. New York has strong anti-discrimination protections for people with criminal records. An employer, including a fire department, cannot refuse to hire someone because his/her criminal conviction might suggest a bad moral character. Fire departments may only refuse to hire a candidate if the candidate’s conviction suggests that he/she is specifically unfit to be a firefighter. For example, a department would be able to refuse to hire someone because of an arson conviction, but probably not a shoplifting conviction.
What about Record Sealing?
Record sealing is another way a person with a criminal record could still become a firefighter. A fire department would not even be able to look at a sealed criminal record, so it would have no way of knowing that person even had a record. Thus, a person with a sealed record doesn’t face any more obstacles to becoming a firefighter than anyone else would.
What should I do if I think my criminal record might prevent me from becoming a firefighter?
If you or a loved one has a criminal record and is interested in becoming a firefighter, contact Rosenblum Law. Our criminal defense attorneys are experts at helping people with records get a fresh start. We’ll be able to help you review your options and find a way forward. Email us or call 888-815-3649 today for a free consultation.