Certificates of Relief From Civil Disability: After Federal Convictions

When individuals convicted of a crime in New York wish to expunge or seal their records, they find that this mechanism is permitted under very limited circumstances.  Instead, the more prevalent method to retain employability and restore lost civil rights is a request for a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disability made either to the sentencing judge or state parole office. Many individuals convicted of crimes in the New York state system avail themselves of this opportunity.  What is rarely discussed – and almost never done – is a request for a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disability in the federal system. 

Federal Certificates of Relief from Civil Disability 

No mechanism exists in the federal system to expunge arrests and convictions, except in very rare circumstances; the federal expungement statute covers crimes including possession of small amounts of some controlled substances (18 U.S.C § 3607), but that’s all.  Short of applying for a Presidential pardon, individuals convicted of federal crimes who have lost certain civil rights like the right to bear arms must apply for relief from civil disability to have their rights restored.  As noted, this application for relief from civil disability is traditionally made following a conviction in the state; however, it can be done federally as well.

In order to receive a federal certificate of relief from civil disability, an individual must first contact the federal probation department in the district of conviction. In order to receive this relief, the individual must be cleared federally by the Treasury Department and also by the state of New York which actually issues the certificate. Should the Treasury Department deny the requested relief, a written application can then be made to the district court of conviction instead.  Obviously, the assistance of a top New York federal Relief from Civil Disability attorney will greatly ease this process for you and have your lost rights and privileges restored.

Federal Expungement of Arrest and Conviction Records is Incredibly Rare

Very few courts will even consider the expungement of arrest or conviction records.  In one decision, a federal appeals court noted the deleterious impact an arrest record can have on an individual: “[T]he injury to an individual’s reputation may be substantial.  Economic losses themselves may be both direct and serious. Opportunities for schooling, employment, or professional licenses may be restricted or nonexistent as a consequence of the mere fact of an arrest, even if followed by acquittal or complete exoneration of the charges involved.”  Menard v. Mitchell, 430 F.2d 486, 490 (D.C. Cir. 1970).  A New York federal court concluded, additionally, that expungement of arrest records should not be done routinely but only in “extreme circumstances,” not whenever a criminal prosecution ends in an acquittal.  Such circumstances include when mass arrests make it impossible to determine if arresting officers followed probable cause law, when arrests were made to harass civil rights workers, when police records were misused to the detriment of the defendant and where an arrest was made pursuant to a law which was later deemed unconstitutional. United States v. Schnitzer, 567 F.2d 536, (2d Cir. 1977).

Therefore, your best bet in restoring lost civil rights due to a federal conviction is to apply for a federal certificate of relief from civil disability because the consequences of a federal conviction can be life-altering even after you serve your time.  Hire a top federal certificate of relief from civil disability lawyer to restore your lost civil rights and employment restrictions today.  Call the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman at (212) 581-1001 to schedule a free consultation today.