Being released from prison and returning to society is not necessarily easy, though it is an important step. Up to 1/3 Americans arrested by the age of 23. Many of them will have at least a misdemeanor on their record.
A misdemeanor can create challenges for someone looking for a job. But, can you get a job with a misdemeanor?
In this article, we’ll cover the following:
- What is a Misdemeanor?
- How Does a Misdemeanor Change Your Life?
- Will a Misdemeanor Affect my Job?
- Can a Misdemeanor Prevent Me from Getting a Job?
- Will I Pass a Background Check with a Misdemeanor?
- Should I Disclose a Misdemeanor on a Job Application?
- Should I Mention my Misdemeanor in an Interview?
What is a Misdemeanor?
Misdemeanors are typically less serious criminal offenses than felonies. What is classified as a misdemeanor depends on the state or other jurisdiction.
A misdemeanor is a minor criminal offense that carries a sentence of:
- A fine
- Community service
- Up to a year in prison
Different states have different interpretations of what a misdemeanor is. While each state defines misdemeanor for itself, the level of punishment is a typical indication of what constitutes a misdemeanor.
There are different classes of felonies based on the punishment:
- Federal Class A misdemeanors are those crimes punishable by six months to a year
- Federal Class B misdemeanors have a sentence of 30 days to six months in jail
- Class C misdemeanors, with a sentence of 5 to 30 days of jail time
- Crimes punishable by less than five days in jail are considered to be federal infractions
Common misdemeanors in this country include:
- Possession of a controlled substance
- Burglary and property theft
- Unlawful possession of a weapon
- Resisting arrest
- Violating a restraining order
How Does a Misdemeanor Change Your Life?
Committing a crime, whether a felony or a misdemeanor, often creates major upheaval in your life.
Having a misdemeanor typically does not cause the same degree of negative changes in your life.
Some of the effects of a misdemeanor are more direct and obvious. In addition to any jail or prison sentence imposed by the court, there may be other direct consequences, including:
- Probation – This is a way for the courts to restrict someone’s freedom without sending them to jail or prison.
- Restitution – This means having to pay back the victims for any money that may be lost as a result of criminal activity.
- House arrest – This means remaining in your home for a specified time.
- Community service – This is typically given for lower level crimes as punishment for those who don’t have a significant criminal history or as a condition of probation.
- Restricted privileges – These may be for crimes involving automobiles for a DUI.
There may also be more indirect consequences of a misdemeanor that will still be added burdens in your life.
An employer typically runs a background check when you apply for a job. This will mean reporting the crime on an application and having to explain it to a potential employer.
Some jobs may be off limits after being convicted of a misdemeanor. Some professions require some type of license or certification such as healthcare or in teaching. Some of these may no longer be a possible career option for you.
There may be restrictions on owning a firearm if it was a crime involving domestic violence.
Having a criminal record means that these records will be available to the public to view. This may be seen by anyone and possibly create discomfort or conflict.
Some crimes that involve finances of fraud could put jobs handling money in jeopardy.
Child custody in the case of a divorce may be challenging. Adoption of a child is also a similar potential restriction.
For those interested in continuing education in college, getting financial aid may be more difficult or even impossible.
Renting an apartment might also be more challenging as some landlords might not be comfortable renting to someone with a misdemeanor on their record.
There may be immigration issues. Anyone in this country and who is not a citizen may be deported upon conviction of a misdemeanor.
These are just some of the unintended consequences you might experience as a result of a misdemeanor conviction while it might not seem like it on the face of things.
So, be aware as you move forward of what might seem like an inconsequential conviction can turn out to have far-reaching consequences.
If there are issues, you can contact an attorney.
Will a Misdemeanor Affect my Job?
Background checks are typically run when hiring for position within a company with no specific legal requirements for an employer to run a background check on anyone who is currently employed
Some employers may decide to run a background check on current employees to verify their current standing and to reveal any potential legal difficulties that may have arisen. Some employers run a background check on current employees when dealing with reassignment to a new position with different responsibilities.
Other companies might decide to run a background check when deciding which employees to retain at a company in case of changes within the business.
A background check can help an employer ensure that the business is promoting the right candidate.
In most cases, an employer must have a signed consent to a background check on current employees. This is according to the Federal Credit Reporting Act.
Not have a signed consent would be a federal violation. Some companies do include a clause in their original consent form for a background check to allow them to do a background check after hiring.
It is important to verify whether this is the case for any job for which you might be submitting an application. An authorization form must be signed.
When consenting to a background check, an employer must inform an applicant or employee that the report obtained through background check may affect whether that applicant will be hired, promoted, or be able to keep a job.
The employer must also indicate any intention to conduct periodic background checks after hiring. This must be in writing and separate from the job application.
Can a Misdemeanor Prevent Me from Getting a Job?
Just as with a felony conviction, a misdemeanor can prevent you from getting a job. This is not as likely as having a felony conviction as employers tend to be less concerned with a misdemeanor than with a felony.
If you have a misdemeanor that is more than seven years old for an underage offense most employers will choose to ignore it.
The most likely situation in which a misdemeanor can prevent you from getting a job is if you are not honest about a misdemeanor conviction in the first place. If you state that you have no criminal record, but it shows up on a background check later, this can lead to not being hired.
It may not be as much for the criminal record itself as for lying about it. Honesty is always the best policy.
Will I Pass a Background Check with a Misdemeanor?
Background checks are common and by most employers even in small businesses. Most background checks will reveal a misdemeanor.
Before applying for the job, it’s a good idea to know exactly what an employer will see when running it. You can run a background check on yourself before submitting an application.
Even if a misdemeanor does carry a lighter sentence than a felony, it will remain on your criminal record. A misdemeanor typically shows up on a background check, though it does depend on how in depth the background check is.
Some misdemeanors may be missed by some background checks. Any type of criminal record can prevent you from obtaining certain jobs.
Misdemeanors are typically prosecuted at the county level. If an employer conducts a state background check, the records may not include the county in which a defendant was convicted. In such cases in misdemeanor may not show up. Employers are often less concerned with a misdemeanor than with a felony.
Employers can find out information regarding arrests in the last seven years as well as any convictions.
An employer typically cannot see arrests that happened more than seven years ago or for records that have been expunged or erased.
Many jobs require a background check, especially those involving the public in public trust. These may include nursing as well as child care, banks, and working in public education.
Should I Disclose a Misdemeanor on a Job Application?
Federal laws require an employer to inform an applicant that a criminal background investigation will be done in the hiring process. A written consent is required for such a background check.
Applications that ask about felony convictions do not require reporting a misdemeanor conviction.
On your job application it is important to:
- Be familiar with the questions that may be asked and be ready with an answer
- Be honest about all information disclosed
- Decide how to explain a criminal record
- Have a written job history in the form of a current resume
- Have references
Some records can be erased, including when the:
- Defendant was found not guilty
- Case was dismissed
- The case was at least 13 years old
- Criminal conviction as a juvenile with no felony before the age 21
When it is a misdemeanor conviction, maybe important to contact an attorney.
Should I Mention my Misdemeanor in an Interview?
Specific information regarding criminal record should be revealed to a potential employer at the time of the interview. Briefly describe what happened and accept responsibility.
Explain how you bettered yourself while incarcerated. Describe what you are doing now to move past the conviction. Describe lessons learned from your mistakes.
A misdemeanor conviction should be explained briefly and honestly. Accept your mistakes and tell what the experience taught you and how you have changed since then.
It is important to answer all questions directly and honestly. An employer knows that you are aware of what’s on your record. Attempts to pretend you don’t know makes you appear dishonest.
Making mistakes is part of life. It is important to demonstrate this and how it shows integrity and honesty. Give yourself the best chance of finding a job.
What do you think about this article? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to get hired with a misdemeanor on your record? What was that like, and how did you achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.