Having a criminal conviction can limit many job options. Unfortunately, New York only allows adults to have their criminal records sealed after 10 years (similar to an expungement), and even then, there are many crimes that make one ineligible to have the record sealed.
Thankfully, individuals have an option that can help open doors that may not otherwise be available to someone with a criminal conviction: A Certificate of Good Conduct or a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities.
What is a Certificate of Good Conduct?
A Certificate of Good Conduct restores certain rights that would otherwise be denied to someone with criminal convictions. For example, it may allow one to apply for certain occupational licenses (although it does not guarantee they will be granted). It can also restore one’s right to be appointed legal guardian to a child, to vote while on parole, and to apply for public office. A person with a certificate may be able to apply for a firearm permit. In addition, the person may also be eligible for a better student loan or financial aid, as well as better housing opportunities.
One can apply for a Certificate of Good Conduct if he/she:
- Has been convicted of 2 or more separate felonies.
- Has waited a certain amount of years based on the offense (Misdemeanor: 1 year; Class C, D or E Felony: 3 years; Class A or B Felony: 5 years)
- Has achieved good conduct in the community during the waiting period.
What is a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities?
A Certificate of Relief from Disabilities serves a similar purpose as a Certificate of Good Conduct but has different requirements. A person can apply for this certificate if he/she:
- Has been convicted of any number of misdemeanors but no more than one felony.
- Has been released from a correctional facility or are under parole supervision (at the recommendation of the supervising Parole Officer).
Unlike a Certificate of Good Conduct, a Certificate of Relief has no waiting period; it is issued upon release or once the person is on parole supervision. However, while under supervision, the certificate is temporary. This means it can be revoked by the Department of Corrections if deemed necessary. This certificate becomes permanent once the person is discharged from supervision.
A person who wishes to apply for Certificate of Relief can discuss the matter with his/her parole officer, or consult with an attorney experienced in such matters. In most cases, the court which tried the case is the issuing authority for the certificate.
How to Apply for a Certificate of Good Conduct
The application for a Certificate of Good Conduct is complicated and time-consuming and for this reason it is advisable to speak with an attorney before proceeding. Someone who wishes to apply must fill out the paperwork thoroughly and be patient because these certificates don’t get granted overnight. The step-by-step process goes as follows:
- Download the application form from the Department of Corrections and fill it out.
- Obtain copies of the last three years of taxes returns, including W2s and 1099s.
- Send these and the original notarized application to the Certificate Review Unit at the address noted on the application.
- After a period of time, a representative from the Certificate Review Unit will arrange for an interview at the applicant’s residence.
- Wait. The full process can take up to one or two years.
The Department of Corrections will be looking to affirm that the following criteria have been met:
- The applicant has not re-offended.
- The applicant has made restitution and paid all fines for past offenses.
- The relief provided by the certificate is in the best public interest.
- If the conviction occurred in another state, that New York law specifically applies to the facts of the case.
Common Questions About Certificates of Good Conduct and Relief from Disabilities
What is the difference between a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities and a Certificate of Good Conduct?
There are four major differences in each certificate:
- Who qualifies. A Certificate of Good Conduct is available to those who have two or more felonies, while a Certificate of Relief is available to those who have only one.
- Waiting period. A Certificate of Good conduct has a waiting period of 1 to 5 years, while a Certificate of Relief has none.
- Issuing authority. In many instances, the court in which a person was tried is the issuing authority for a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities, although there are instances when it can be issued by the New York State Department of Corrections. Only the latter can issue a Certificate of Good Conduct.
- The right to run for public office. Only the Certificate of Good Conduct can restore this right.
Do I need an attorney to help file for a certificate?
No, but it is very advantageous to do so. An attorney with experience filing for Certificates of Relief and Good Conduct can offer help to make sure the person is applying for the most beneficial certificate. In addition, he/she can ensure the paperwork is accurate and submitted with all the required documents, thus providing the best possible chance that a person will be granted relief.
What factors are considered when issuing a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities?
The court or Department of Corrections must confirm first that the person is eligible for relief. Second, it will seek to confirm that the relief to be granted is “consistent with the rehabilitation” of the offender. Thirdly, it will determine whether granting the relief is in the public interest.
What factors are considered when issuing a Certificate of Good Conduct?
The primary focus is that the offender has not re-offended and that any restitution and fines have been paid. The Certificate Review Unit will also investigate whether the relief is in the public interest.
Why might someone be denied a certificate?
Such cases are very complex, but most denials are made for one of the following reasons:
- Inaccurate or false information in the application.
- Evidence that the relief is not in the public interest.
- Violation of probation or failure to pay fines.
What if I don’t know exactly what is on my criminal record?
It is possible for a person to obtain a copy of his/her criminal record by following the directions listed on the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services.
Do I still need to disclose my conviction after receiving my certificate?
Yes. The certificate does not seal the record; it merely provides relief from some of the barriers faced by those with felony convictions.
Who Should I Contact for Help Getting a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities or Certificate of Good Conduct?
If you or a loved one has been convicted of one or more felonies or for any other criminal offense in New York or New Jersey, contact an attorney right away. The lawyers of the Rosenblum Law are skilled criminal defense attorneys who can help determine if you are eligible for a certificate, expungement/record sealing, or any other legal procedure that can help get your life back on track. Email the Rosenblum Law or Call 888-815-3649 today for a free consultation about your case.