When a citizen is arrested in the United States, even for a misdemeanor offense, it can mean a lifetime of consequences. With modern computer databases, a full accounting of one’s history is available at the click of a mouse and this includes records of arrests and convictions. Getting charges dropped certainly helps, but does not eliminate the existence of the arrest. A criminal record or arrest history can severely limit employment and educational opportunities, housing options, and personal liberty extending beyond periods of incarceration.
Anyone charged with a criminal offense should take very seriously the long-term implications of pleading guilty and take any available steps to fully expunge the records from searchable databases. Here is what you need to know:
Employment and Educational Opportunities
Even when there is no conviction or charges are dismissed, the existence of an arrest can affect employment and educational opportunities even years into the future. Employers routinely perform background checks and if an arrest record has not been expunged and deleted from the database, it will show up and either have to be explained or outright disqualify otherwise qualified applicants. The same is true with educational advancement. Two-thirds of colleges ask questions about criminal history during the admissions process and it is naïve to think the existence of an arrest record won’t impact close decisions in competitive environments.
A criminal history can disqualify people from public housing under federal regulations. Many rental applications also ask about criminal histories and require completion of background checks that can disqualify applicants from their housing of choice.
Getting arrested means being incarcerated for at least the period of time it takes to post bond and possibly much longer. The threat of physical incarceration is not, however, the only limit on personal liberty. Even misdemeanor convictions can force one to forsake careers in medicine or law. Traveling to other countries may not be allowed even after probation has ended. Felonies preclude the possibility of owning a firearm, getting most professional licenses and in most states, being registered to vote until at least the end of probation and sometimes forever.
After an arrest it simply cannot be undone, but steps can be taken to minimize its impact. Hiring a skilled attorney for representation is essential as well as investing in the process of having arrest and conviction histories expunged whenever possible. You may also need to work with a bail agent, like those from All Star Bail Bonds. The relative investment is small compared to the potentially devastating lifetime of consequences flowing from the existence of an arrest or conviction.
Author Info: Hannah Whittenly is a freelance writer and mother of two from Sacramento, CA. She enjoys kayaking and reading books by the lake. You can find her on Twitter.