Certificates of Relief from Disabilities and Certificates of Good Conduct are documents that can help people with convictions obtain employment, housing, and other benefits.
In New York State and City laws prohibit people with particular convictions from working in certain jobs or getting certain licenses (such as security guard jobs and licenses). Certificates remove most of these automatic disqualifications and require employers and licensing agencies to consider your application.
Before denying you a job or license because of your conviction, most employers in New York must consider evidence of your rehabilitation and good conduct. If you have a Certificate, employers and licensing agencies must assume that you are rehabilitated, unless they have significant evidence that you have not positively changed.
Certificates do NOT expunge or seal convictions, and they are NOT pardons.
You are eligible if you have only one felony conviction or if you have no felony convictions.
If you are on parole, you are only eligible if your parole began at least six months ago, except in special circumstances.
File a separate application for each conviction for which you want a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities.
If you are on parole, ask your parole officer to submit a Certificate of Relief report to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (“DOCCS”).
If you are not on parole and the conviction caused you to serve time upstate in a New York State prison (such as Clinton Correctional Facility) or you were convicted in federal court or in another state, submit an application to DOCCS. You can find the application online.
For all other convictions, bring your application to the clerk’s office at the court where you were sentenced. You can find the application at the courthouse or online.
To increase your chances of getting the Certificate, submit evidence of your accomplishments and good character. For example, you can submit your own letter explaining the facts of the offense/crime, your feelings of remorse, and your positive life choices since the offense— such as your work history and your participation in treatment programs, school, religious activities, caring for family members, or community service. You can also submit letters of recommendation from employers, teachers, religious officials, community members, family, or friends who know you; your resume; evidence that you have attended school, job training, counseling, or other programs; and any other evidence of your accomplishments and good character.
To be eligible, you must either (1) have two or more felony convictions, (2) want to be a public officer and have a conviction that disqualifies you from being a public officer, or (3) want to lawfully possess a long gun and have a New York State conviction that disqualifies you from possessing a long gun.* Public officers are certain appointed or elected government workers, such as correction officers, firefighters, and police officers.
There is a waiting period that begins at the time of your last release from incarceration or your last criminal conviction, whichever occurred most recently. If your most serious conviction is an A or B felony, you must wait five years. If your most serious conviction is a C, D, or E felony, you must wait three years. If your most serious conviction is a misdemeanor, you must wait one year.
*The laws about firearm possession and criminal convictions are complicated. Before possessing a firearm, you should talk to an attorney to ensure that it is legal for you to possess a firearm.
You only need to file one application for all of your convictions.
If you are on parole, ask your parole officer to submit a Certificate of Good Conduct report to DOCCS.
If you are not on parole, submit your application to DOCCS. You can find the application online.
To increase your chances of getting the Certificate, submit evidence of your accomplishments and good character. See above for examples of evidence of accomplishments and good
Call our Access to Benefits helpline at 888-663-6880 on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. for help with:
The information in this document has been prepared by The Legal Aid Society for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. You should not act upon any information without retaining professional legal counsel.
Last Updated: 14 January 2021
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