Under New York’s Corrections Law §§ 700–703, a defendant who has been convicted of a crime, but who has not been convicted of more than one felony may be granted a “certificate of relief from civil disabilities.” If granted a certificate of relief from disabilities prevents forfeitures which automatically arise upon conviction of a crime. This includes preventing forfeiture of a pistol license, a license to to practice medicine, and a number of other forfeitures related to state employment.
Even if granted, however, a certificate of relief from civil disabilities will not prevent an agency from considering the conviction within its discretion to hiring personnel.
Both the sentencing court and the parole board have the authority is grant a certificate of relief from civil disabilities. Before granting the certificate, however, either entity must find the relief is consistent with the defendant’s rehabilitation and the public interest. A certificate may be issued by a court either at the time of sentence or following an application made to the sentencing court.
Prior to granting the certificate of relief from civil disabilities, the court may order an investigation by the probation department. Reports submitted within the context of the investigation are confidential, however, the court may order such reports to be disclosed. Before the court decides to issue a certificate, a copy of the report will be provided by the court to the applicant’s attorney, or the person applying if he or she is not represented by an attorney.
Also note, when a court imposes a “revocable” sentence, which is a conditional discharge or probation, and issues an accompanying certificate, the certificate is temporary until the court’s authority to revoke the sentence has terminated. During this time, the certificate may be revoked for violation of the conditions of the sentence, for example, if the defendant is imprisoned in a state facility. In relation to certificates issued by the Parole Board, the certificate is revocable so long as the defendant’s parole remains revocable.