New York Pardon Information
The New York Constitution gives the Governor the “power to grant reprieves, commutations and pardons after conviction, for all offenses except treason and cases of impeachment.” The Governor can impose any conditions, limitations or restrictions on a pardon as he deems proper. The Legislature can regulate the manner in which pardons are granted.
The Legislature has created a body called the State Board of Parole which has the authority to, at the request of the Governor, investigate and advise the Governor on pardon applications. The Board of Parole is made up of nineteen members who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate; the members serve six-year terms.
The Governor must report to the Legislature every year, detailing every pardon he granted the previous year, including the name of the convict, the crime he was convicted of, the sentence he received and the date of the sentence, and the date the Governor granted him the pardon.
Because the focus of this site is on pardons, we do not discuss reprieves, commutations, remission of fines and forfeitures, amnesty, parole, or other types of clemency that may be available in New York here. We also do not discuss judicial alternatives such as record expungement, record sealing, setting aside or dismissal of convictions. You should talk to an attorney if you think any of these alternative options may be more appropriate for you.
Getting a pardon in New York is very difficult. The standard is very high. The Governor will only grant a pardon under the “most compelling circumstances,” when no other administrative or legal remedy is available to the individual.
Your chance of getting a pardon largely depends on your individual circumstances. Naturally, the older and less serious your conviction, and the more compelling your life story, the higher your chance of getting a pardon. Your chance of getting a pardon can also depend on who is serving as Governor at the time you application is reviewed; some Governors are simply more lenient than others in handing out pardons.
The Governor will typically only consider pardon applications for the following purposes:
- To set aside your conviction where there is overwhelming and convincing evidence that you were innocent of the crime you were convicted of, and such evidence was not available at the time you were convicted (for example, DNA evidence clearing you of a rape conviction you received twenty years ago, when the technology was not available);
- To relieve you of a disability (such as right to vote or possess a gun) you have because of your conviction; or
- To prevent you from being deported or permit you to re-enter the United States.
Again, keep in mind that pardons are very difficult to get in New York. They are considered a last resort where other remedies cannot adequately address your needs, and are rarely granted.
Because of that, New York has created a procedure where you can obtain what is called a “Certificate of Good Conduct” (CGC) or a “Certificate of Relief from Disabilities” (CRD), which has many of the same benefits of a pardon and are granted much more frequently. These certificates are intended to restore some or all of the rights which you have lost (which may include your gun rights), and to remove some or all barriers to employment and licensing you may have because of the conviction. The certificates, however, do not void your conviction or allow you to deny that you were ever convicted of the crime if asked.
You can apply for these certificates either with the court that sentenced you or with the State Board of Parole, depending on what your sentence was. You can apply with the sentencing court for misdemeanor convictions and non-prison felony convictions; for felony convictions which you were sentenced to prison for, you must apply with the Board of Parole.
Also, the particular type of certificate you can apply for (whether a CGC or a CRD) depends on whether you have only one felony conviction or multiple felony convictions. You can only apply for a CRD if you have no more than one felony conviction. If you have multiple felony convictions, then you must apply for a CGC, which has a 1 to 5 year waiting period.
We do not elaborate on these alternatives to a pardon here any further. You should contact an attorney, the court where you were sentenced, or the State Board of Parole if you are interested. You can also find out more about them by going to the Board of Parole’s website at https://parole.state.ny.us/.
The Application Process
There are no application fees to apply for a pardon/clemency in New York. Unfortunately, as of this writing, the formal application materials are not available on the Internet. Thus, you should contact the Governor’s office directly or the State Board of Parole to acquire the materials and acquire more specific information about the process. You can contact the Governor’s office at:
Governor, State of New York
Albany, NY 12224.
You can contact the Board of Parole at:
Director, Executive Clemency Bureau
New York State Division of Parole
97 Central Drive
Albany, NY 12206
At some point during the application process, may be required to provide the Governor’s office or the Board of Parole information about your convictions. If you do not have sufficient information about your convictions, you may need to obtain your criminal history report. You can do this by contacting the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services at (518) 485-7675. You can also log onto its website at http://criminaljustice.state.ny.us/. The report should list all arrest, charges, and convictions which you have ever received in New York.
If you have convictions in other states, you can obtain a more comprehensive, nationwide criminal report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. You can find out how to do this by calling the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., at (202) 324-3000, or logging onto its website at http://www.fbi.gov. The FBI’s website also has a list of local FBI offices you can call. Alternatively, you can contact the criminal history record repository (which keeps a record of all criminal activity in a state) in each state where you have arrests/convictions. Listed on Criminal History Record Repositories is a list of criminal history record repositories for all 50 states.
Even if you are not required to do so, we highly suggest that you submit, on a separate sheet of paper, a detailed and genuine personal statement explaining why you need a pardon. In your personal statement, do not simply say you want a clean criminal record again. Tell the Board of Parole/Governor how your conviction has negatively affected you and your family. For example, explain how you have been denied housing or employment opportunities because of your conviction, and how this has prevented you from providing you and your family an adequate standard of living.
If you are facing deportation because of a conviction, explain how being separated from your family will negatively affect you as well as them. If you are pursuing a career in a field that requires you to obtain a pardon, submit documents, letters, or other proof from a prospective employer, licensing agency, or attorney verifying this necessity. If you need to regain your gun rights, explain why you need this—for example, you are pursuing a career that requires the use of firearms, or you want to take part in your family hunting traditions, or you simply want to feel more secure and able to defend yourself and/or your family after a recent traumatic event.
Also indicate on your personal statement all the positive things that have occurred in your life—for example, educational achievements, new or stable employment, marriage and children, community involvement, charitable services or donations, law-abiding behavior, etc. Submit copies of your college transcript, high school diploma or GED, military certificates, marriage certificate, honors and awards, and other proof of your rehabilitation and good character. Explain what your future plans are and how a pardon would help you.
In writing your personal statement, keep in mind that the Board of Parole/Governor will not be retrying you for the offense. Although you may feel the need to explain the facts of the crime from your perspective, avoid trying to make excessive excuses for your crime and argue away your guilt. However you feel about the crime, you have already been found guilty. The Board of Parole/Governor is probably more interested in seeing your remorse for the crime, and your understanding of its effects on the victim and society, than anything else.
You should also, even if not required, submit a few letters of recommendation from credible people (such as your boss) who know you well and can say good things about you. These letters should indicate to what extent the writer knows you and why he or she thinks you should be granted a pardon. The letters should also indicate the writer’s contact information for verification purposes. If possible, you should choose individuals who are not related to you, in order to avoid the appearance of bias.
Make sure you keep a copy of everything you send for your records. Your completed application, along with your personal statement and supporting documents and letters of recommendation, should be sent to the Governor’s office at the above address.
Once the Governor’s office receives your application, it will either conduct its own investigation or send your applications materials over to the Board of Parole to do the investigation. In either case, the investigation may include looking into your criminal background and prison records (if applicable), as well as your employment, social, medical, and psychological histories.
The Governor’s office or the Board of Parole may also obtain the opinions/recommendations of the district attorney and the sentencing judge who was involved in the particular case. The victim’s opinions/recommendations may also be requested.
There may or may not be a hearing or interview in your case, either at the Governor’s office or before the Board of Parole (more likely the latter). You must not only attend the interview/hearing, but also look and act your best. Dress in the same way you would if you were going to court for a trial. If allowed, have friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers, and others in your community attend the interview/hearing to show their support. The interview/hearing is an excellent opportunity for you to put a human face onto your application; it lets the Governor/Board of Parole not only see you in person but also see the support you have in your community.
If the Board of Parole handled your application, it will likely make a final recommendation to the Governor. At any rate, the Governor has the final say on whether or not you receive a pardon. The Governor’s decision is final. This means that if you are not happy with the decision, you cannot appeal it to a court. However, in most cases you can reapply in a few years.
A pardon would restore your right to vote in New York. However, remember that the Governor can place any reasonable conditions, restrictions, or limitations on a pardon as he deems proper. For example, the Governor can provide in the pardon that your voting rights must be restored through a separate procedure.
Keep in mind, however, that your voting rights are usually automatically restored once your sentence for the particular conviction has expired or once you are discharged from parole. Thus, if you are only concerned about your voting rights, a pardon might not be necessary. A pardon would also restore your other basic rights, such as your rights to serve on a jury and to hold public office, if they have not already been restored.
Remember, there are alternative ways to restore most of your basic rights without necessarily getting a pardon. Refer to Part B for information on a “Certificate of Good Conduct” (CGC) or “Certificate of Relief from Disabilities” (CRD).
Unlike your other rights, a New York pardon will not necessarily restore your gun rights. If you are unsure about this, ask the Governor’s office or the Parole Board to clarify this for you. The penalty for “unlawful possession of a firearm” may be severe. If getting your gun rights restored is important to you, make sure you make this desire known during the application process.
Under federal law, if you have received a pardon from any state, the pardoned conviction cannot be used by federal authorities to prosecute you for “unlawful possession of a firearm” unless the pardon specifically says you cannot possess a gun. However, just because you cannot be prosecuted under federal law does not mean you cannot be prosecuted under state law. Some states have stricter gun laws than federal law.
Also, in most cases, federal immigration authorities cannot rely solely on a conviction that has been subject to a pardon for the purpose of deporting you from the country. If immigration is not an issue for you, this benefit is obviously irrelevant.
If you receive a pardon based on the fact that evidence conclusively proves that you were innocent of the crime, you can apply to the court where you were convicted to have your conviction set aside and dismissed. Unfortunately, most adult convictions (whether it is a felony or misdemeanor) cannot be sealed or expunged under any other circumstance in New York.
However, there is a way for you to seal charges that did not result in a conviction (acquittal, dismissal, etc.) or to seal certain non-criminal infractions (most traffic offenses). Also, a new law in New York now allows most felony drug offenders and a few non-drug offenses to have their records sealed after successful completion of a diversion program. You should talk to an attorney knowledgeable about record sealing or record expungement in New York to see whether you qualify and what the process is.
|See http://www.recordgone.com/NewYork/ for more information and options for record sealing and expungement|
If you receive a pardon because the Governor found you innocent of the crime you were convicted of, then the conviction cannot be counted against you if you commit another felony under New York’s “persistent felony offender” and “second felony offender” statutes. If you receive a pardon for reasons other than innocence, then the conviction can still be used against you in those future circumstances.
If you are granted a conditional pardon, and are released from prison early as a result, you can be rearrested and brought back into prison if you violate a condition of the pardon. In this case, the pardon would be void, as if it was never given to you in the first place.
If you were sentenced to life imprisonment for a conviction, and the Governor grants you a pardon for that conviction, it does not restore you to any marital rights you may have had before you were convicted—for example, guardianship or custody over your children.
If you were required to register as a sex offender because of a conviction, a pardon for that conviction would release you of the duty to continue registering. Of course, if you have other convictions which require you to register and which have not been pardoned, you will probably be required to continue registering.
New York law makes it generally unlawful for public employers, licensing agencies, and private employers with more than 10 employees to discriminate against someone on the basis of his criminal history. Law enforcement positions are not subject to this rule, however. Typically, an employer or licensing agency is only allowed to consider a conviction if there is a direct relationship between the conviction and the particular position or license which the applicant is seeking. Even where the employer or licensing agency is allowed to consider the conviction, the law requires to it also consider a variety of other factors, such as the age of the conviction, the duties of the position, the age of the individual at the time of the offense, the seriousness of the offense, the individual’s rehabilitation since being convicted, and the policy of the State in encouraging ex-convicts to be productive members of the workforce.
New York law is unclear whether the receipt of a pardon automatically prohibits employers and licensing agencies from considering the conviction under all circumstances. It is highly unlikely that any employer or licensing would consider a pardoned conviction, however. A pardon is, after all, a strong official statement of forgiveness and rehabilitation from the highest executive officer of the State. On the other hand, if you have received a CGC or CRD (see Part B), it creates a “presumption of rehabilitation” which employers and licensing agencies must seriously consider, but you can still be denied the position or license if other factors weigh against you.
Finally, keep in mind that the effects of a pardon can vary from one state to the next. For example, if you receive a pardon in New York and then move to another state, that other state might take away your gun rights or require you to register as a sex offender again even if the pardon lifted these restrictions from you while you were living in New York. Thus, you should always check with the laws of the state you move to rather than just assume that the benefits of the pardon moves with you across state lines. Fortunately, states tend and honor each other’s pardons.
- New York on Wikipedia
- New York State Bar
- ApplyForPardon .com - Pardon form completion service. Enter your information and get a neat and clean looking form sent to you.
- Record Clearing .org - post conviction information
- N.Y. Const. art. 4, § 4; see also N.Y. Exec. Law § 15
- The Sentencing Project, New York, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/NewYork.pdf
- N.Y. Exec. Law § 259-c
- N.Y. Exec. Law § 17
- New York State Division of Parole, Executive Clemency, https://parole.state.ny.us/Clemency.asp
- See N.Y. Correct. Law § 701
- See N.Y. Correct. Law § 702, § 703
- N.Y. Correct. Law § 700
- N.Y. Correct. Law § 703-b
- See In the Matter of Boyd v. Pataki, 2008-NY-0627.059 (June 26, 2008)(“‘The power to grant reprieves, commutations and pardons is conferred upon the Governor to grant upon such conditions and with such restrictions and limitations, as he may think proper’. . . and the exercise of such discretion and power, ‘unless illegal or impossible conditions are attached, is not subject to judicial review.’”)(citations omitted)
- N.Y. Elec. Law § 5-106
- U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33)
- N.Y. Exec. Law § 19
- See N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law §§ 160.50 and
- N.Y. Penal §§ 70.10, 70.04, and 70.06, and
- N.Y. Exec. Law § 18
- N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law § 58
- N.Y. Correct. Law § 168-f
- The Sentencing Project, Margaret Colgate Love, New York, http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/File/Collateral%20Consequences/NewYork.pdf (citing N.Y. Correct. Law §§ 750-55)