Both New York and federal law prohibit people with felony convictions from owning firearms. What most people don’t know is that New York allows some people with criminal records to recover the rights they lost when they were convicted, including the right to bear arms. A person with a criminal record who obtains a Certificate of Good Conduct or a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities may be able to regain the rights he/she lost when convicted, including the right to apply for a gun permit.
What is the Law on Gun Ownership for Felons?
New York bars anyone convicted of a felony or “serious offense” from applying for a firearm permit, which makes it illegal to own a firearm. Federal law also prohibits anyone with a state or federal felony conviction from owning a firearm, which means anyone convicted of a felony in New York is barred from owning a firearm even in other states.
However, New York offers certificates for certain qualifying people that can restore rights lost on conviction, including the right to bear arms. A Certificate of Good Conduct establishes that a person with a criminal record has reformed and reintegrated into society. A Certificate of Relief is another document that can restore legal rights to a person with a criminal conviction. Depending on the circumstances, these certificates can also restore the person’s gun rights under federal law, which allows the person to buy guns in other states as well. These two certificates come from different sources and have different requirements.
Who can get a Certificate of Good Conduct?
A Certificate of Good Conduct restores all of a convicted person’s lost rights. The New York Department of Corrections has authority over these certificates. Anyone who meets the following requirements can apply for a Certificate of Good Conduct:
- Has waited a certain number 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. Usually, this means having no criminal convictions during the waiting period and paying all fines and restitution.
Who can get a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities?
A Certificate of Relief from Disabilities also restores most of a convicted person’s rights and doesn’t require a waiting period like the Certificate of Good Conduct. Usually, a person seeking a Certificate of Relief should apply to the court that convicted him/her. Anyone who meets these conditions can apply:
- Has been convicted of any number of misdemeanors but no more than one felony.
- Has been released from a correctional facility or is under parole supervision (at the recommendation of the supervising Parole Officer).
Should I have an attorney help me apply for a certificate?
While anyone who meets these conditions can apply for one of the certificates, the state isn’t required to grant the certificate. Certificates can be denied if there is false or inaccurate information on the application, evidence that granting the certificate is not in the public interest, or if there are any probation violations or failure to pay fines. For that reason, it’s a good idea to have a lawyer help with an application to make sure the application is as persuasive as possible.
Does Having a Certificate Always Restore the Right to Own a Gun?
Usually, but not always. A person convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanor loses a number of rights, such as the right to vote, to serve on a jury, to own a gun, to have certain public jobs, and in some cases to hold public office. When the state grants a Certificate of Good Conduct or Relief from Disabilities, it might specifically decide not to restore certain rights. Someone with a class A-1 or violent felony conviction is never allowed to own a gun in New York, but the state might withhold the right to own a gun even from those with lesser convictions. A person concerned about restoring all of his/her rights should make sure to contact an attorney for help filing an application.
Federal law is also complicated on this point. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) regulation only allows convicted felons to buy firearms if the state has restored all of that person’s rights. A Certificate of Relief from Disabilities does not restore a person’s right to hold public office if the person lost that right, so a person who lost that right and does not have it restored is still barred from owning a gun under federal law.
What Should I Do if I have a Criminal Record and Want to Restore my Gun Rights?
To make sure you have the best chance of restoring your right to own a gun, you should have an attorney help you file for your Certificate and make sure it restores all of your rights. As well as helping you file for your certificate, he or she could also possibly assist you in sealing your record. The attorneys at Rosenblum Law are experienced criminal defense attorneys who know how to restore a person’s lost rights. If you have a criminal record and are interested in having your gun rights restored, email the Rosenblum Law firm or call us at 888-815-3649 for a free consultation today.