Important Terms You Should Know About an Arrest Record

Criminal Arrest Record

The nation has an amazing database of criminal arrest records. Today, almost one in three adults of working age have some type of criminal arrest record. The sheer number of adults with a criminal record is so much it’s almost impossible to tally the count.

According to the Department of Justice, there may be over 100 million records in their database. These records are often referred to as “rap sheets.” Most of these are records of people who have no conviction of a serious crime. The records chronicle every detail, whether the event led a conviction or not.

These numbers may overstate the facts since one person may have arrest records in several states. To make it easier for law enforcement agencies to access criminal histories the FBI maintains a database. It’s called the Interstate Identification Index.

When someone gets arrested and fingerprinted, they will get a unique identification number. That number goes to the FBI.

Limiting the Damage of Arrest Records

An arrest record can damage a person’s possibilities of gainful employment. That’s never a good thing under any circumstances. A job or career can influence where a person lives, works, and plays. As such, legislators and private sectors are beginning to recognize the harm of judging a person by their past record.

Many states have adopted “fair chance” laws. This prevents private employers about asking about past convictions on the job application.

Employers are urged to wait until later to conduct a background check in the hiring process. In fact, there are some thoughtful employers, like Koch industries, who have removed questions about criminal backgrounds from their applications altogether.

President Obama has already signed an executive order banning the box on federal employment applications. For job seekers, this is good news.

Some Employers Will Continue to Inquire into Backgrounds

While asking about a conviction that occurred a decade or two ago does no one any good, there are still employees who will inquire, either in an interview on a job application. This, in light of the fact that millions of Americans were never convicted of a crime.

No doubt, employers want to find employees who are trustworthy and dependable. Obviously, some potential employees get passed over for less incompetent ones. They say the wheels of justice grind slowly, and it is unclear at this point whether efforts to change the system will reach fruition.

Perhaps it’s time the country took a close look at broad social reforms that will free 70 million American from their past mistakes.

Five Terms to Be Aware of About a Criminal Arrest

1. What is a CRIMINAL ARREST HISTORY? This comes into being when a person gets arrested and fingerprinted. The record includes information about whether it’s a conviction, acquittal, if charges are dismissed, or if there is additional disposition.

2. What is a CONVICTION? A conviction, or adjudication, is when a person is found guilty by a court of law. The criminal case ends when a defendant is found guilty by a jury or judge, or there is a plea of no contest or a plea of guilty. Arrests can bring about a plethora of penalties and sanctions. It also means that a person can lose their driver’s license and/or the loss of the right to vote or own a firearm. Convictions include all kind of criminal cases including misdemeanors, convictions, and criminal traffic offenses.

3. ACQUITTAL. This is a formal, judicial finding of “no guilt.” The result is a final dismissal of criminal persecution and means “not guilty.” There are dismissals of criminal charges before trial, and include:

*Pre-trial motions that dismiss a charge before the trial. There may also be a motion to suppress evidence.

*No prosecution as determined by the legal system.

*Pre-trial diversion program.

4. SEAL or EXPUNGE. This is a legal process that is to remove an arrest history from all public records. These records were created at the time of the individual’s arrest. Individuals are advised to talk to a lawyer that understands the laws concerning seal or expunge in their state.

If filed and approved, the judge signs an Order to remove all records of the arrest from the arresting agency or that State Attorney’s office. Even if a person pleaded guilty or no-contest can get a record expunged—so long as the judge decides to withhold adjudication in the case. Being found not guilty is additional cause for expungement. Having completed a pre-trial diversion program can also be a qualifying factor.

5. DISPOSITION. Dispositions can be limited to dismissals, pleas, convictions, adjudications, acquittals, youthful offender, paroles, pardons, and probations etc. Another way of looking at it is a final settlement of a matter on all references handed down by the court. It is the finality of the case.

Important Questions to Ask About

  1. What do I do if charged with a felony?
  2. When charged with a misdemeanor, what happens to the individual?
  3. Where and How can I find a bench warrant?
  4. If I am a resident of another state, will a public defender defend me?
  5. If a citizen of another country, will I have access to a public defender?
  6. What should I know about “drug treatment” courts?

The most important thing you can do is to stay informed about the law and your own background. It is your life. No one can regard its value in quite the same way you can.

Getting Life Back on Track with a Criminal Arrest Record

Life has to go on, regardless of your past. Study your rights is the best advice for moving forward. Make sure you gather and understand all the information concerning your arrest. It is all there in the records; the severity of the crime, arrests, time of the incident, and the time elapsed after the incident occurred.

There are still employers who will ask about your criminal arrest record history. It is still unlawful to use your criminal background as an “absolute” reason to prevent you from gaining employment.

Each state has different laws about what employers can or can’t ask about your background and/or criminal record history.

Because it is a requirement, employers will inform you of their intent, in writing before running a background check.  And according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, an employer must notify you that a criminal report will not automatically disqualify you from employment.

It is always a good idea to consult with an attorney on expunging or sealing your record.

Have Realistic Expectations

Despite what state laws may say, or require, there will always be jobs that are out of bounds. This would be the scenario of you had a criminal record or not. It is up to the employer to make the decision to hire or not, especially if your arrest conflicts with the nature of the position.

What You Can Do

Learn how to network. Many people get jobs based on who they know, not always their education of what they know. Networking is often the best career path for millions of people looking to advance their career.

Find associations in your industry and network with them. If you and your hiring manager have something in common, he/she may make the decision to hire you.

Provide personal references of people who can vouch for you and believe in you. Make sure they are solid citizens. Don’t wait for an employer to ask. Be ready to offer up the information.

Ask for help from organizations that work with people with a criminal arrest record. There are agencies and non-profits that offer workshops specifically for those with a criminal arrest record. They can be a tremendous help.

It might be a long shot, but if you have the money to pay for a career coach, you may be able to jumpstart your career as a result. There may also be agencies that connect with the criminal justice system that can help you get back on your feet.

You may also decide that owning your own business is the route to take. You may choose to look someone that doesn’t need a criminal background check or fingerprinting for the issuance of a license. Find an attorney that’s skilled in this area.

It may be possible to form your company as a limited liability. This keeps your liabilities and assets separate from the company’s assets.

You can also use a name other than your own to distance your business from a criminal background. Set up and run the business in an ethical manner.