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Trying To Start a Business with a Criminal Record


Trying to get a job with a criminal record can be more challenging than you might realize. Even individuals looking to the world of self-employment as a means of getting around the strict criminal background checks that many 9-to-5 jobs require face hurdles, as there are a number of businesses you cannot start if you have a criminal record.

For example, convicted felons are not allowed to hold positions in fields involving dangerous materials, finance, law, or medicine, even if their convictions had nothing to do with any of these areas.

New York State Occupational Licensing Laws

Some businesses also require you to obtain a special license first. In New York, licensing agencies are required by law to make licensing decisions on a case-by-case basis, and are prohibited from denying an individual with a criminal record a license due to their conviction unless the conviction is directly related to the specific license sought or the issuance of the license would create an unreasonable risk to property or public safety.

Specifically, in determining whether there is a risk and/or job-relatedness, licensing agencies must consider the following factors:

  • The specific duties and responsibilities related to the license being applied for and the bearing (if any) that the individual’s criminal history will have on their fitness to perform these duties and responsibilities;
  • The time that has elapsed since the criminal conduct;
  • The applicant’s age at the time of the criminal conduct;
  • The seriousness of the offense;
  • The legitimate interest of the licensing agency in property or members of the public; and
  • Any evidence of rehabilitation that the applicant with a criminal record presents, including a Certificate of Good Conduct or Relief from Disabilities.

Other statutes also restrict licensure or certification to persons of “good moral character,” automatically implicating individuals convicted of certain crimes (i.e. those that “reflect on moral character”).

Bias & Hurdles

Even if you are able to start your own business with your criminal conviction, having that conviction on your record can ignite the prejudices in others, and prevent your business from being as successful as it could be. This can be especially difficult if you are relying on outside funding for your business, as applying for a loan, business grant, and/or credit card can also be challenging with a past conviction.

New York Record Sealing Attorneys

If you have been convicted of a crime years ago, the last thing you would expect is to be denied the right to start your own business and make a living. New York allows individuals convicted of certain offenses to have the record of their conviction sealed. For assistance in this regard, contact Levy & Rizzo, LLC, The Clean Slate Attorneys today for a free consultation.


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