Finding a job in a tough economy with a criminal arrest record is difficult and frustrating. It is frustrating because you may interview well or are offered a job, only to have the offer rescinded upon the completion of a background check showing your previous arrest!
An arrest comes in two different forms:
- You are booked into the county jail.
- You are issued a Notice to Appear by the police in lieu of visiting the county jail.
What do you do if you have an arrest record? This is a trick question because I used the words “arrest record” not “criminal conviction” for a very important reason. An arrest shows up on background checks even if your charges were dropped or dismissed. This is important to know because people often think that because a criminal charge was dropped or they received a “withhold of the adjudication” that they don’t have a criminal record. In legal terms, this is true but in the non-legal world, an arrest means guilty!
Why does an arrest mean guilty in the workplace? Most employers lack the training and knowledge needed to distinguish between an arrest and a criminal conviction. Employers take the background check results at face value and move on without researching or understanding what the results show or mean. If you entered a diversion program (Misdemeanor Intervention Program ‘MIP’ or Pretrial Intervention Program ‘PTI’) this information applies heavily to you.
What do you do if a background check shows you were arrested? The criminal justice system allows you to expunge one arrest record in your lifetime. Expunging is the legal process of erasing your arrest record. There is an additional process known as Sealing (hiding) but we are not covering that issue at this time (although the process is similar).
The expungement process erases your criminal arrest record from the public records. Public records include: Clerk of the Circuit Court, investigating police agency, county jail, probation department and Florida Department of Law Enforcement. This process is not perfect by any means, but it helps start the process of repairing your image with an Order to Expunge. The Order to Expunge does not legally extend to private companies, such as mugshots.com or backgroundchecks.com, but many of these companies are more willing to remove an arrest record if you provide a court order showing it was erased.
As a criminal defense attorney, I have offered the above information to help you succeed. If you need help expunging your record, contact an attorney to help you. As students, I know you are concerned that you can’t afford to hire an attorney to expunge your record. Let me assure you that with a little effort and some patience, you can complete an expungement on your own without the use of an attorney. It often takes a bit longer, but it can be done!
Ryan Rooth is a criminal defense attorney with Rooth Law Group in the Tampa Bay area with offices in St. Petersburg and Tampa. Gain more information about expungements on their website.