How Do Criminal Records Affect Employment Prospects?
A few years ago, largely at the behest of the federal government, many states passed so-called “ban the box” laws that prohibited potential employers from asking about job applicants’ criminal records. The laws had very good intentions, as jobless ex-convicts are normally more likely to fall back into their old habits and reoffend. However, recent evidence suggests that these laws only shifted discrimination. Researchers theorize that since employers could not make choices based on criminal records, they assumed that applicants from certain demographic groups, such as young nonwhite males, probably had undisclosed criminal records, and they then acted accordingly.
So, with momentum waning, Florida lawmakers may never pass a “ban the box” law. A few municipalities have such ordinances, but they are usually very limited and filled with exceptions. Therefore, in this tight economy, it is important for applicants to answer “no” when they see questions about criminal convictions.
In most jurisdictions, prosecutors offer deferred prosecution agreements in a wide range of cases, even violent felonies. DPAs are especially common in juvenile cases and among young, first-time offenders in adult criminal court.
Program requirements vary, but typically, defendants who successfully complete program requirements emerge with no criminal conviction, because the prosecutor unilaterally drops the charges or the judge dismissed the case. Program requirements may include:
- Low-level psychological counselling, and
- Community service.
These programs generally involve little or no risk, because in the unlikely event that the defendant does not complete the program, the prosecutors simply pick up where they left off.
The advantages of a DPA is that the defendant does not need to meet statutory eligibility requirements and does not need to take any further action to effectively erase the conviction record. The obvious drawback is that the arrest record remains behind. However, future employers are usually satisfied with an explanation like “I was arrested, but then my lawyer filed some paperwork, and the judge dismissed the case.”
Section 943.0585 of the Code of Criminal Procedure covers formal expungement proceedings, which will erase both the arrest and conviction records, at least for most purposes. There are some very strict preliminary eligibility requirements. First, expungement is a one-time tool. If a defendant has a record expunged, no subsequent cases, even if they were clear wrongful arrest cases, are eligible for expungement. Second, the defendant can have no prior felony convictions, or no prior misdemeanor convictions for assault, battery, unlawfully carrying a weapon, and a few other prohibited offenses not including DUI.
Defendants who qualify can move onto stage two. The state will issue an expungement eligibility certificate if:
- No charging instruments were ever filed,
- The prosecutor or court unconditionally dismissed the case, and
- The defendant does not seek to expunge a sex crime or another prohibited offense.
Expunged records may still come up if the defendant tries to apply for a state job or tries to take the Florida bar examination.
Speak with Experienced Attorneys
A criminal past greatly inhibits job prospects. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, PA. Convenient payment plans are available.