How Expungements and Other Legal Relief Can Improve Employment Prospects
In June of 2022, many experts began to agree that the US was headed into a recession. By the end of the month, job layoffs had already started, and large corporations began retrenching. Based on past recessions, these types of events can be thought of as dominoes that fall and create economic difficulty for the rest of the country.
For many citizens with a criminal record, an economic recession is particularly concerning. For those with criminal convictions, obtaining and maintaining employment is especially difficult. Even people whose convictions occurred decades ago; the existence of that record can be the sole reason that their application is denied or not even considered. Worse yet, sometimes people who have succeeded in a place of employment can lose their job once that record is uncovered.
As the economic recession looms, it is important for those with criminal records to understand what they can do to make themselves as employable as possible. This article will explain some of the ways that a person with a criminal background can improve their employment opportunities.
Ban The Box
Hawaii was the first state to pass a Ban the Box law in 1998. Since then, the majority of states have followed suit. While Ban the Box laws generally tend to work in favor of those with criminal records, it is important to understand their limits.
The typical Ban the Box law simply makes it illegal for an employer to ask applicants if they have a criminal history. Before these types of laws were enacted, may job applications would contain a check box asking if an applicant had a criminal record. If that box was checked, the employer could immediately and categorically disqualify that applicant without giving them a chance to explain themselves.
With Ban the Box in place, it gives those with a criminal past and opportunity to either explain the mitigating circumstances of their criminal record or show the employer why they would still be a good employee despite their history.
The major caveat to the Ban the Box laws it that employers are still completely free to run background checks on all their applicants. This means that, while the applicant is no longer obligated to disclose their criminal record, employers are still entitled to see it as part of the vetting process.
Simply put, Ban the Box laws offer some protection, but the best thing a person can do to improve their employability is seek the expungement or sealing of their criminal record.
Expunged, and No Longer Guilty
Over the last decade, many states have enacted laws that allow for certain crimes to be expunged. Importantly, “expungement” means different things in different states, and some states use different words like “set aside” or “vacate” to mean something similar.
Generally speaking, a person who is granted expungement is legally allowed to state that they were not convicted of the underlying crime. In other words, the expungement order changes the record by removing guilt.
Obtaining an expungement can be a huge step in the direction of getting a better job or keeping the job one already has. In some states, those with expunged records are legally protected from being discriminated against based on their underlying convictions.
Obtaining an expungement almost always requires making a petition to a court. However, in several states, as long as a petitioner meets the statutory eligibility requirements, the judge has no discretion in the matter and must grant the expungement.
Sealed, and Out of Sight
Expungement can be a powerful tool for improving a person’s employment opportunities. However, sometimes expungements don’t entirely remove a person’s criminal history from public record access.
Most states maintain repositories that contain a person’s complete criminal history. Either directly, or by way of background check companies, employers can access these records during the process of vetting applicants.
The absolute best thing that a person can do to improve their job prospects is to seal their criminal record.
In many states, but not all, sealing is done automatically alongside expungement. Better yet, some states automatically seal all expunged records. Generally, if a person’s record is expunged and sealed, they are legally entitled to say that they were not guilty of a crime. They can also be reasonably sure that a sealed record will not be accessible to any potential employers.
Laws on expungement and sealing vary drastically state to state. If you are interested in finding out what types of relief you may qualify for, please take our eligibility test or contact our firm. We pride ourselves on being a leading expert in post-conviction relief representation all over the US!
Don’t Wait for the Recession to Hit Home
The process for obtaining a criminal record expungement or sealing can take a long time. Depending on the service or the state, court records will need to be obtained and then petitions will need to be drafted before they are filed. Once filed, the state (the prosecutor or District Attorney) will usually have at least 30 days to respond. Once that time elapses, the court can set the matter for a hearing. Depending on the county and the court, hearings can sometimes be set 5-6 months in advance.
If you are worried about employment now, it is important to start this process as soon as possible so that you can reap the benefits when it really counts. Please take our eligibility test or contact our firm so that we can get started!