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Relief From Civil Disabilities & Pardons


*My thanks to Glenn Murray and the New York State Bar Association for their input.


A certificate of relief from civil disabilities (CRD) is a means of avoiding various collateral consequences of conviction. It may be obtained from the sentencing court or from the Board of Parole.

If a defendant is not eligible to apply for a court-granted CRD, relief may be available by a CRD from the Parole Board. The Parole Board also has the authority to issue a certificate of good conduct (CGC) that will avoid various collateral consequences arising from conviction in New York and other jurisdictions.

A CRD is designed to ameliorate various mandatory forfeitures, disabilities and bars to employment resulting from a conviction. The term "forfeiture" refers to the loss of present rights. In contrast, the terms "disabilities" and "bars to employment" refer to impediments to future rights. These rights primarily concern employment and licensing.

A CRD avoids only automatic (as opposed to discretionary) forfeitures and disabilities. The CRD will not preserve any right to retain or be eligible for public service. A CRD will not eliminate bars to employment that are not imposed solely as a result of the conviction, i.e., the bar must result by reason of the conviction alone.

The granting of a CRD pursuant to Correction Law section 702 is at the discretion of the sentencing court. A CRD is not a pardon and does not vitiate the conviction.

A CRD is not necessarily a "certificate of rehabilitation, or other equivalent procedure based on a finding of the rehabilitation of the person convicted" as defined in Federal Rule of Evidence section 609(c). That section provides that a certificate of rehabilitation will make evidence of a conviction inadmissible for impeachment purposes. Under New York laws, a CRD does not preclude impeachment by conviction in a civil trial pursuant to Civil Practice Law & Rules section 4513.

Automatic Forfeitures and Disabilities
A variety of New York Statutes provide for mandatory forfeitures and disabilities resulting from conviction. What follows is a summary of examples, not a definitive list:
  • Gen. Bus. Law 74(2). Security guards and private investigators are ineligible for licensure if they have been convicted of a felony or certain specified offenses.

  • Surr. Ct. Proc. Act Law 707(1)(d). Fiduciaries are ineligible if convicted of a felony.

  • Gen. Bus. Law 61. Junk dealers are ineligible for licensure if convicted of larceny, receiving stolen property or of violating Gen. Bus. Law Art. 6.

  • Jud. Law 510(4). A prospective juror is ineligible for duty if convicted of a felony.

  • Alco. Bev. Cont. Law 102(2). Certain liquor store employees are ineligible for employment if convicted of a felony or certain specified offenses.

  • Exec. Law 130. Persons convicted of a felony or certain specified offenses are ineligible for licensure as a Notary Public.

  • Penal Law 265.01. Persons convicted of a felony or serious offense (defined in Penal Law 265.00(17)) are prohibited from possessing a rifle or shotgun.

  • Penal Law 400.00(1). Persons convicted of a felony or a serious offense are ineligible to obtain a firearm license.

  • Real Prop. Law 440-a. Felons are ineligible for license as real estate brokers or salesperson.

  • Elec. Law 5-106(2)-(5). Felons are ineligible to register for or vote, unless and until pardoned, restored to citizenship rights by the Governor, maximum sentence of imprisonment has expired, or parole discharge.

Many New York statutes provide that a CRD can avoid the affect of a conviction.

For each client, then, the lawyer should determine what kind of licensure and employment the client has or anticipates seeking in the future. The laws governing such licensure and employment must be researched in order to identify restrictions that may have an impact on the client and which may possible be avoided by a post-conviction CRD.

Discretionary Forfeitures and Disabilities
Although a CRD does not, by itself, avoid discretionary forfeitures and disabilities, it does establish a presumption of rehabilitation that limits unfair discrimination arising from conviction.

Correction Law Article 23-A does not apply to prospective employment as a member of a law enforcement agency.

Redress Under Correction Law 754 and 755
A person who has been denied a license or employment, who has been previously convicted, is upon his or her request entitled to a written explanation setting forth the reasons for the denial. Discrimination that is allegedly in violation of Correction Law 752 by a public agency, may be challenged by a CPLR Article 78 proceeding. Such discrimination alleged against a private employer may be challenged under the Human Rights Law.

Driver's Licenses
Effective November 1, 1988, the New York State Legislature enacted amendments which rendered a CRD ineffective against mandatory revocations of driver's licenses based on alcohol-related convictions. However, these amendments expressly provide that a CRD, along with other documentation, may avoid permanent disqualification from operating certain "special vehicles".

Weapons and Firearms
A CRD may relieve the offender of the statutory bar to application for or receipt of a pistol license and the bar to possession of long or short weapons, arising from the conviction of a felony or serious offense, but it will not avoid the exercise of discretion in licensing. The unfair discrimination statute does not apply to firearm licensing.

Nursing Home Operators
Public Health Law 2806(5) requires revocation of a nursing home operating certificate upon a controlling person's industry-related felony conviction, despite a CRD.

Advocacy and Judicial Discretion
The optimum circumstances for obtaining a CRD is when the crime is perceived to have been relatively minor (by classification or because of extenuating or mitigating circumstances) and when the application is made upon proof of rehabilitation. The statute does not require rehabilitation as a predicate to relief. Rather, it provides a two-prong criteria: issuance of the CRD must be (1) consistent with rehabilitation, and (2) consistent with public interest.

In seeking a CRD at sentencing, defense counsel should offer any evidence that detracts from the perceived seriousness of the crime and any evidence reflecting the client's post-offense rehabilitation. Counsel should also highlight forfeitures or disabilities that impair the client's livelihood in order to show the beneficial effect of a CRD. 

For post-sentence applications, counsel may establish the potential for or attainment of rehabilitation by a showing successful completion of probation or compliance with conditions imposed on the client at sentencing.

In reaching its determination of whether to grant a CRD, the Court or agency will consider the eight factors set forth in Correction Law 753 along with the two-prong criteria in Correction Law 702.

Vacancy or Reversal
Non-Elected officials may apply for a CRD upon reversal or vacancy of a conviction of a felony or other crime involving a violation of oath of office. At the discretion of the appointing authority, the official may be awarded full or partial salary for the period of the vacancy.

A pardon is another means to ameliorate collateral consequences for a client. It is the oldest method of relief from disabilities and is reserved for extraordinary cases involving issues of innocence or manifestly unjust dispositions. An absolute pardon restores civil rights but does not annul the conviction. Unless granted on the ground of innocence, a pardon does not automatically discretionary prejudice to the client in cases involving prospective employers or licensing authorities. A pardon does not preclude inquiry into character and fitness, and does not preclude administrative discipline.

Almost every criminal case poses some kind of collateral consequence to the client. Depending on the nature of the charge and the client's status, such consequences range from the general odium associated with a criminal charge to more specific potential consequences that may be certain, remotely possible, or somewhat in between these likelihoods.

The attorney must identify and evaluate such collateral consequences so that he or she may advise the client accordingly, avoid or ameliorate such consequences where practicable, and possibly exploit them in conducting plea negotiations or at sentencing.

Civil Disabilities
If you or your business were convicted of a crime and need relief from the resulting legal disabilities, we can help. Please complete our simple and secure forms to initiate the process.

You may also contact Hubert Law Office Brooklyn, New York attorneys or call them directly at 718-522-4646.


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