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Can You Become a Security Guard in New York with a Criminal Record?

Navigating a career path in security with a criminal record can seem daunting, especially in a state like New York with its stringent requirements. However, it’s important to understand that having a criminal record doesn’t automatically disqualify you from becoming a security guard in New York State (NYS). In fact, there are specific provisions and legal pathways that can help individuals in this situation.

Understanding Certificates of Relief and Good Conduct

The New York State offers two critical forms of legal relief for those with criminal records: the Certificate of Relief from Disabilities and the Certificate of Good Conduct.

  1. Certificate of Relief from Disabilities: This certificate is designed to remove mandatory legal barriers imposed due to a person’s criminal history. It is applicable for those who have committed misdemeanors or are first-time felony offenders. Notably, two or more felony convictions from the same indictment are counted as a single felony for this purpose. This certificate becomes relevant when no prison term is involved.
  2. Certificate of Good Conduct: This is intended for individuals with more than one offense on their record. It not only lifts “the forfeiture or disability” but also removes barriers to employment. The issuance of this certificate, by the State Board of Parole, typically follows a waiting period of one to five years, depending on the severity of the offense.

Sealing Criminal Records

In New York, sealing a criminal record essentially makes it invisible to most potential employers, including those in the security sector. Under Criminal Procedure Law §160.59, individuals with up to two convictions (including one felony) can apply to have their records sealed, provided they have been crime-free for at least ten years since their sentencing or release from jail/prison.

Who’s Eligible and What Convictions Can Be Sealed?

Eligibility for record sealing in New York includes those who have maintained a clean slate for a decade and have no more than two convictions (or related charges from the same incident). Misdemeanors are generally eligible for sealing, and so are some felonies. However, certain felonies, such as sex offenses, violent crimes, and other serious felonies, are not eligible for this relief.

The Process and Impact of Sealing

When a record is sealed, it remains inaccessible to most employers and entities, with exceptions like law enforcement agencies, gun permit applications, or if you’re seeking a role as a police or peace officer. The process involves obtaining necessary forms from the NY State Courts website, filing a motion for sealing, and adhering to the guidelines provided.

Becoming a Licensed Security Guard

Despite a criminal past, individuals in New York can pursue a career as a security guard. Organizations like International Security Services, Inc. offer assistance and training programs tailored for those aiming to achieve licensure as security guards in New York. They provide guidance through the pre-qualification screening and support throughout the training process.


While a criminal record presents challenges, it’s not an insurmountable barrier to becoming a security guard in New York. With the right guidance, legal avenues, and dedicated training, you can embark on a rewarding career in the security sector, contributing positively to society and finding a path to personal and professional redemption.

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