The True Cost of a Criminal Record
By John Brosnan, Esq.
Everyone knows that you don't want to have a criminal record. However, most people
don't fully understand the consequences of having one. A criminal record can negatively affect
one's job status, ability to find employment, ability to find housing, benefits eligibility, chances
of getting into college, immigration status, and eligibility for certain licenses.
Crimes vary in seriousness (i.e. Murder v. Petit Larceny), but all crimes result in a
permanent criminal record. Unlike some other states, New York currently has no expungement
or sealing process to hide old and outdated criminal convictions. This means that a youthful
indiscretion made as a 19 year old that results in a criminal conviction will follow a person for
the remainder of his or her life, without any possible recourse. Thirty years ago, a criminal
record might not have acted as a bar to some job opportunities, as it can today. Until recently, most
employers and colleges didn't ask if a person had a criminal record. As recently as the 1990s,
less than half of potential employers routinely ran background checks for criminal activity.
Today, it is a routine procedure practiced by nearly every employer, and many databases exist
which allow employers to easily find out about a job applicant's criminal record. In
today's economy, the amount of applicants far outnumber the number of available jobs, which
means employers can be highly selective in their search for new employees. One of the first and
quickest ways an applicant will find themselves denied a job opportunity will be after a routine
background check which shows a criminal conviction. A 2004 experiment, conducted among New
York employers, found that applicants with a criminal record had a 50% less chance of receiving
a call back or offer from a potential employer.
A criminal record could negatively affect more than just a person's ability to gain
employment. Many landlords are now performing background checks before agreeing to lease
an apartment to a potential tenant. Landlords can legally deny a person housing based on a
finding that a person has a criminal record. Certain governmental benefit programs are only
available to individuals who have never been convicted of a crime. Crimes that are considered
crimes of moral turpitude may result in denial of citizenship or possible deportation. Also,
depending on the underlying crime and the profession in question, a person could be
automatically barred from obtaining the necessary license to work in that particular field.
Clearly, keeping a person's criminal record clean is of the utmost importance.
One of the simplest steps a person can take to assure this is to hire a knowledgeable
criminal defense attorney. Attorneys are able to help formulate defenses that most clients don't even know
they may have. Whether it be through effective plea negotiating or taking a case to trial and forcing
the prosecutor to prove every element beyond a reasonable doubt, investing in a criminal defense
attorney is the only way to ensure that you get the best possible result not only in your criminal
case, but also for your long term future.
So, the next time you or a loved one is charged with a crime, be sure to consider the far
reaching consequences a criminal conviction may carry. While pleading guilty and paying a
simple fine may seem like it will make the immediate headache go away; that decision could
have disastrous long term effects. When charged with a crime, hiring a knowledgeable and
experienced criminal attorney is the most important step you can take towards keeping your
clean record and reputation intact.
Contact us for a free case evaluation.