Unfortunately, people often find themselves wondering what impact a recent arrest will have on their current or future employment. This usually occurs soon after the arrest occurs or, if young, years later when the impact is felt.
An “arrest” is not affected if all charges were either dropped or never filed. An arrest marks your criminal history regardless of the outcome of the case and the only legal method to reduce this impact is called “expungement,” or “sealing” the record or “non-disclosure” orders (see below).
How Does an Arrest Affect Your Job
An arrest for the common crimes, such as simple DUI or some minor misdemeanor or innocuous felony, will eventually have you thinking about how this will affect your employment. The impact can be immediate or years later.
An Arrest Will Affect Your Employment
It is not whether an arrest will affect your employment, it is to what degree will it affect your employment. The question also concerns when it will affect your current job or future jobs.
An arrest when we are young may not seem immediately devastating. The effects may only appear when you have begun your employment search years later. However, if you are already in your career field, the impact may be immediate.
Government employment will definitely be impacted by any arrest. Almost all government jobs will entail some kind of pre-screening (see, Level 1 and 2 Background Checks) and follow-up screenings. However, using a criminal arrest history in the hiring decision does have restrictions.
Florida state employment also has protections regarding the use of criminal arrest histories (see, Your Criminal Record and Your Job). However, in all instances a criminal record can be used as a pre-judge of character for the particular field of employment.
In other words, despite all the pretty language, an arrest is a negative mark on any government application.
Private Sector Employment
The private sector is also governed by federal regulations regarding the use of background checks for employment (and some state regulations). You should be aware of these protections, even if they are minimal.
More important is the movement to push criminal history information to the back of the hiring process so that everyone has a chance to show their qualifications and skills for a particular position (See this article from Workplace Fairness).
Specific skills, regardless of background, are also considered since certain jobs required skills that few people have. States provide re-entry services for ex-offenders however many of these services aren’t job training centers. They are just assistance until you can stand on your own feet.
Private entities solicit ex-offenders for job training (see this example) which may or may not be self-serving – however, these lists definitely point out areas where an ex-offender can look for career fields.
Bottom line for private sector jobs is whether or not you have a needed skill. There are job-training agencies out there that solicit to ex-offenders.
For example, people who own boats typically require a mechanic to maintain the boat’s motor(s). Boat owners don’t typically decide who they hire based on a background check. They just want the person to be a known good mechanic and their boat fixed.
Self employment is always a possibility. Professional fields, such as real estate, offer the opportunity to advance to broker status and having your own business. You don’t have to worry about getting hired when you are self employed however, you do have to be concerned with clients becoming aware of your background.
Most people who check other people’s criminal history use private companies, such as Truthfinder or BeenVerified. These companies obtain their information from government agencies such as Clerks of Court and state agencies, such as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement [FDLE] (see below).
Since self-employed people depend heavily on their reputation, knowledge of an arrest being circulated around the community can be devastating.
Will an Arrest Show-up On My Background Check
An arrest can be the traditional handcuffs, back of the police car, trip to the jail or it can be a “notice to appear.” If anyone has ever been accused of shoplifting and been released with a piece of paper that instructed you to appear in court – that is technically an arrest.
A background check can either be a criminal history from a governmental records office or from a private “background check” company. Official government criminal histories are records received from law enforcement agencies and the courts. Private background check information is obtained through public records held by government agencies.
Before Case is Resolved
Once you have been arrested, the arrest information is suppose to be transmitted to the state agency that keeps a record of all arrests that occur in the state (which is then forwarded to the FBI). In Florida, the agency is the FDLE.
Technically, your arrest history will start as soon as the information is transmitted to that agency. This can be just days after your arrest. Jails are very good at transmitting this information.
When a person receives a Notice to Appear the state agency may not be immediately notified. However, the Clerk of Court will generate a criminal case file number within their records which is a public record.
Even if the state agency (e.g., FDLE) has no record of the arrest, the Clerk of Court will have a public record of the case which will include arrest data. Either way, private background check companies obtain data from the state agency and the clerk of court.
Moreover, the records held by the Clerks of Court are increasingly being digitized and posted online. In Florida, almost 100% of the Clerk’s of Court already have their records online and plans are underway to make access to these records easier.
Case Was Dismissed
One of the biggest misconceptions is the belief that if the charges are dropped or dismissed or not even filed then there is no arrest record. This is false. As pointed out above, the arrest history begins with the arrest. It does not get erased because the charges were not proved or dropped.
Once you have been arrested, private companies will eventually have this information and sell it to their customers. Their customers include businesses (e.g., rental management companies, employers, etc.) and individuals.
Additionally, operations such as mugshots.com and others have almost immediate access to arrest data through the jails. County Jails and Sheriff’s increasingly post arrest data online as well.
Can an Arrest Be Erased From My Record
Most states have statutory procedures to remove arrests from a criminal history. A common term for this is “expungement.” It also can be called “record sealing” and “non-disclosure” order (see What is an Expungement in Florida).
Different States, Different Laws
What term is used depends on the state where the arrest occurred. You must use the state laws where the arrest occurred unless you were arrested on an out-of-state warrant. In that situation you need to use the state laws where the crime occurred. (See, States With Expungements for more information).
You can also look up information at the Electronic Information Privacy Center [EPIC] about current laws and proposed legislation regarding disclosure of arrest information (among other issues).
For help expunging a prior arrest you need to search for a lawyer that practices expungement law in the state where the arrest occurred.
Florida Criminal Arrest Record Expungement and Sealing
Florida has an extensive expungement and sealing laws. You must qualify to have your record sealed or expunged. If you qualify, the procedure takes roughly 8-12 months to complete. Understand that this is the first step to moving past a criminal record. Many people have the misconception that this procedure is a magic bullet. It is not, but it is a huge step in the right direction.
Once Your Record is Expunged
You need to know exactly what the expungement or sealing has done to take full advantage of the benefits. There are still a few things that you should do to make sure that your arrest record does not affect you in the future. Make sure you discuss this with your attorney at the time you hire him/her and once the process on their end is complete.
For More Information Emailed to You
Please note the date this article was published. The information listed above is subject to change as changes are made to the laws. The information written above is meant only to be for Informational Purposes Only and is not legal advice.
If any corrections or errors are found please notify me as soon as possible.
Eric Dirga has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1995. His office is Eric J. Dirga, PA, located in Orlando, FL. He provides legal representation for expungement and sealing of records throughout the state of Florida.
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