If you are thinking about going into the criminal justice industry but you have a criminal record, you must wonder if any kind of job in that field is open to you. There is no simple yes or no answer because there a many, many variables that apply. They may depend on where you live, the severity of the crime or the type of crime. One thing is sure, and that is you should never try to hide the fact that you have had an arrest or a conviction.Almost all employers in all states now utilize background checks when considering applications, but again, variables apply: the type of work you are applying for makes a big difference. As you may already know, the criminal justice system encompasses an extremely wide variety of jobs, and while some of these – such as becoming a CIA or FBI agent – will never be available to someone with a record, there are actually a lot of opportunities for people who have tangled with the legal system before.
Many people thinking about criminal justice careers are young and hoping to begin a lifelong career. If this is the case, consider when and if your record can be sealed. Getting your record sealed may require that you actually go to a courthouse in the same jurisdiction where you were convicted and deliver a special request. If you are successful, then you can legitimately answer “no” when filling out a job application that asks if you have a criminal record. But not all offenses committed under the age of eighteen are necessarily available to be sealed.
While a misdemeanor is obviously less serious than a felony, misdemeanors do stay on a criminal record for life. However, not all misdemeanors automatically show up on a background check. For instance, misdemeanors such as disorderly conduct, vandalism or petty theft, which are prosecuted at the county level, may not appear if your prospective employer runs a state background check; that being said, it is highly advisable that you be completely honest with your prospective employer and tell them about it.
Felonies present a different case. For instance, a Class A crime such as murder, arson assault or a sex crime can never be sealed – although it is unlikely that anyone with that background will be out of prison or considering a criminal justice career. If you committed what is considered a Class B crime including burglary, drug sales, or possession of stolen property, there is a mandatory ten-year period before you can request your record to be sealed. Class C crimes such as vehicle theft or possession of a firearm requires that you wait for five years and not have been convicted in the interim of any other crime. And if a youthful indiscretion resulted in the order to perform public service or take classes, your record is automatically sealed when you reach the age of eighteen.
Avvo is an online legal service that mostly gives advice to those wishing to become lawyers, but it can be an extremely helpful resource for answers to specific questions about other areas of criminal justice employment.
One wrinkle in the area of employability is that many criminal justice jobs that may be available to someone with a record may also include specific requirements that make it impossible to accept such a job. For instance, felonies that prevent an individual from purchasing, carrying or owning a firearm will automatically limit the kinds of positions you can accept. So while you may be able to get a job in private security with a record, if your employer requires you to carry a firearm for protection (yours or theirs) you will simply not be able to fulfill the requirements of the position.
Another confusing area in this process is that so many states take different approaches to this problem. Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York and Washington have recently banned employers completely from asking applicants about criminal backgrounds; obviously, this makes it considerably easier for someone with a record who does want to go into criminal justice to get that job.
This is a complicated topic, and there are many areas – such as the difference between sealing a record and expunging a record – that deserve separate articles. What is crucial if you are considering a criminal justice job but have a record is that you thoroughly research your own state’s laws and requirements and understand the impact your history will have your on chance to get and succeed in the job of your choice.