How Should I Answer Questions on a Job Application if I’ve Been Arrested?

October 14, 2020

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

texasdefensefirm.com

(972) 369-0577

It’s heartbreaking for me to hear current clients and folks who’d gone through some rough patches before be extremely excited about a potential job opportunity only to have the opportunity repeatedly crumble at the last minute over and over.

My Approach To Answering “How Should I Answer the Arrest Question”

First – I advise my clients they usually don’t have a duty to answer questions which aren’t asked depending on the job they’re applying for.  Many folks think they get brownie points for disclosing things they might not have to disclose – and in a perfect world this would be true.  My experience is the opposite, though.

It’s really important to read the question being asked, answer that question, and not answer questions which aren’t being asked.  It’s my experience many employers (and their lawyers) sometimes draft imprecise or clunky questions about previous arrests.  These are questions which might allow you to answer the questions honestly yet not require you to disclose your situation.

Remember your potential employer will also probably do a background check on you too.  You don’t want to get ‘too cute’ answering a question about your criminal history only to have the potential employer not hire you anyway.

Expunctions and Non-Disclosures are the best way to solve these problems.  An expunction allows you to deny the entire situation occurred in the vast majority of situations and a non-disclosure hides the affair from the public.

Quick Texas Guide to Background Check Questions

Have I Been Convicted?

Situations where the answer is “No”

  • If you were on deferred adjudication and successfully completed Deferred successfully for a felony or misdemeanor
  • If you are currently on deferred adjudication community supervision for either a felony or a misdemeanor
  • If your case is currently pending and you have yet to enter a plea
  • If you are waiting for your case to go to trial
  • If you went to trial and were found “not guilty”
  • If your case was dismissed for any reason

Situations where the answer is “Yes”

  • If you have ever plead guilty to a Federal offense
  • If you’ve gone to TDC or State Jail
  • If the judge found you guilty even if you were on probation

Have I Been Charged with an Offense?

“Charged” is a tricky word in these contexts.  What concerns me about the wording is I worry some may not agree with my interpretation or might not really understand what this term means.

To me, you are not “charged” with an offense unless or until the prosecuting authority (normally a District Attorney’s Office) files either an information against you in a misdemeanor or an indictment against you in a felony.

But we often hear on television or read in the newspaper someone was “arrested and charged with…..”  That’s usually not an accurate statement because normally the indictment or information follow an arrest weeks or months later.

So I do worry about folks who answer a background check question they have not been “charged” with an offense greater than a traffic ticket but who have been arrested – because the prospective employer might not understand the difference.

Overriding Advice

I always tell my clients – current and former – please call me with any questions about how to answer a specific question.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is board certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  He is a Texas Super Lawyer as designated by Thomson Reuters.  Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice.


Non-Disclosing Old DWI Convictions: How to Take Advantage of the New Legislative Change

May 18, 2018

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

jeremy@texasdefensefirm.com

(972) 369-0577

Until recently the only way to hide a Driving While Intoxicated Arrest from the Public was to win your case or have it dismissed.  Often a tall order.

The Texas Legislature passed & the Governor signed a law in 2017 allowing non-disclosures for DWI cases where the person qualifies after a DWI conviction.  A non-disclosure hides the arrest and court records from the public.  It can still be viewed by many public entities and it shouldn’t be confused with an expunction which is a complete destruction of the arrest records.  But its still pretty good.

Remember you have to file additional documents to expunge or non-disclose records.

There is a big debate amongst lawyers whether this provision is retroactive — that is whether you can clear something which happened prior to September 1, 2017.  Early returns suggest you can.

Here’s how you qualify to non-disclose a DWI:

  • First time offense
  • No car accident in the arrest
  • Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) below 0.15
  • Get probation for your DWI
  • Have Interlock Ignition Device on your car for 6 Months of your probation.
  • Wait 2-years from the date your probation ends

The provision was like lightning from a clear-blue sky.  As you can imagine, DWI arrestees have been a punching bag for politicians in Texas for the past 40 years.  Interestingly, there is no requirement you plead guilty — which means you could take your case to trial and if you lose — still qualify for the non-disclosure.  It would give a DWI arrestee two bites at the apple so to speak.

Last two things — (1) if you’ve been charged with DWI in Texas, make sure the record is clear at your plea (or sentencing after trial) that you meet all of these requirements to make it easier down the road.  (2) If you’ve got a DWI from 2017 or before, check to see if you qualify.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas.  www.texasdefensefirm.com

 

 


Our Victory at the Texas Supreme Court Changes Expunction Law

May 16, 2018

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

texasdefensefirm.com

(972) 369-0577

Time to crow a bit.

I won a trial roughly two or three years ago where my client was charged with the felony offense of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

After we won, we filed (what we thought) would be a routine petition for expunction clearing my client’s record of the arrest for which my client had been acquitted.  The DA’s Office and The Texas Department of Public Safety opposed our petition because my client had also been arrested for outstanding warrants on an unrelated case which occurred prior to her arrest for the aggravated assault.

The prosecution’s theory was the arrest could not be expunged because the arrest for the underlying warrants made the arrest good under the expunction statute… so she’d have to live with the arrest for the aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on her record forever even though she won her trial.  (This is highly nerdy lawyer stuff — so I’m paraphrasing a touch.)

The prosecution’s idea of the expunction statute before our case had governed their policies and practice statewide — that if you don’t qualify for any small part of this long statute then you’re out of luck.  They argued the record keeping of criminal records for DPS would be too difficult and too sloppy.

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After I convinced the trial judge in the case to order the records expunged over the State’s objection (no small task), the State appealed to the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas and then to the Texas Supreme Court.  Special thanks to Thad Spalding and Morgan McPheeters from the firm of Kelly, Durham & Pittard in Dallas who handled the case after it left the trial court and briefed and argued it from the 5th Court in Dallas to the Texas Supreme Court.

Last week the Texas Supreme Court affirmed our case yet again, making it the law of the land.  Now when someone applies for expunction the test is whether they qualify under the specific provision of the expunction statute and not the statute as a whole.

It punches a hole in the decades-old practice of prosecutors and DPS that the expunction statute was “arrest based.”

You can read the opinion here.

Yeah, it’s nerd stuff.  I know.  But it can be fun to be a nerd sometimes!

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas.

 


Background Checks

April 12, 2017

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

texasdefensefirm.com

(972) 369-0577

I get asked about the dreaded background check a lot.  As in every day.

The whole point of criminal defense is (1) keeping my client out of jail; and (2) keeping my client’s record as clean as possible.  It stands to reason this is a huge concern for everyone who comes into my office.

I’m a criminal defense lawyer and I can bore you about the rules of evidence, the Constitution, and what the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas has been up to all day long.  I’ve picked up a thing or two about criminal background checks along the way so here is some basic info:

Who Keeps Criminal Records?

Criminal records are kept by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).  The FBI’s database is called the “National Crime Information Center, or “NCIC” for short.  DPS maintains the “TCIC” or the Texas Crime Information Center.  Every time someone is arrested in Texas they get both a TCIC and NCIC tracking number.

TCIC and NCIC records are not public and it’s actually a crime for someone to disseminate it to the public.

Also city and county jails keep records with varying degrees of success as well.  This could show arrests or tickets on a city level which may or may not get reported either to the TCIC, NCIC or online.  Some publish citations directly to the public.

Private companies are allowed to purchase records.  These companies in turn re-format them to make them more user friendly and are the traditional back-ground search companies typically used.

So How Does a Background Search Work?

Police and law enforcement can directly access TCIC and NCIC records when they run a report.  Everyone else has to go through a private company.  Some search engines are more reputable than others.  Again, the private search engines typically purchase records and provide a more user-friendly product to whomever is doing the search.

So generally a lender, employer, or apartment complex first has to have a legal reason and/or authorization to run your background check.   This is under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999.  When logging onto the search engine a user is asked the purpose of the search.  Not to get too bogged down on this point, people can’t run your back-ground just to do it.  They have to have a reason.

Will The Background Search Be Accurate?

It’s a human process so there will be an error rate.  An additional problem is prospective employers, bankers or landlords also tend to not understand what it is they are reading.  Ultimately you have to recognize the world isn’t a fair place.  Bad background searches will happen and even a good result from a criminal case can be mis-read by someone making a hiring decision.

Some Anecdotal Good News

Experience teaches me a few things about background searches.  First, is when someone or their loved one is charged with a crime — there is a feeling every eyeball in the planet is on them.  It is common to feel everyone knows everything about what they are going through.  This is not true.  Additionally, background checks are probably much more rare than you think.  Not everyone is running you every day.

Also my experience is most employers tend to take a ‘wait and see’ attitude when they do learn of something negative on a background report.  They are afraid to take action and really do want to get both sides of the story before they make a decision.  This at least allows the person a chance to explain their side.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice about this or any situation you should contact an attorney directly.


Will My Employer Find Out if I’m Arrested?

December 2, 2016

By Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Jeremy Rosenthal

texasdefensefirm.com

(972) 369-0577

I get asked this a lot.  My guess is normally employers don’t find out but information is a hard thing to control.

Will the Police or Courts Notify My Work?

Rarely.  Most State and even Federal courts are inundated with case after case.  Usually your case is nothing special to them and they’ve got their own issues to deal with or worry about and there’s really no reason for them to go out of their way to hurt someone’s ability to make a living.  Plus they understand notifying an employer for any reason is — how should I say politely — “messed up” or “below the belt.”

What Are Situations Where Police or Courts Would Notify My Work?

One way work finds out is in cases where law enforcement really doesn’t like someone they will have them arrested at work.  Maybe they think it’s flashy or they feel entitled to humiliate someone.  This almost never happens on garden variety arrests for assault, DWI,  or theft.

Sometimes a Court could impose work related restrictions as a condition of bond or probation.  That could be related to driving company vehicles in a DWI case, or potentially limiting or monitoring travel in some felony cases.  Some sex cases might involve the accused not being able to work around children until the case is finalized.

Another rare reason might be someone from work could be called as a witness or by an investigator for some reason (assuming the criminal charge isn’t work related to begin with).

Your work could learn about the criminal case too due to absences for Court or because you find yourself in a funk where others around you are wondering what’s been eating at you.

What Will A Background Check Show?

In this information age, you should assume a background check will show your arrest and/or charges.  There is an error rate like with anything else and it’s not 100% your arrest will show up or be accurate.  But it’s best to be honest if you’re asked about an arrest.

Do I Have to Tell My Employer?

Read your company hand-book.

Texas is an at-will state for employment purposes so you can be hired, fired, promoted or demoted for good reasons, bad reasons or no reason at all.  This means you can be fired for not telling your employer if your hand-book says you must.  You can also be fired if you do tell work you were arrested, unfortunately.

My experience is with most charges employers take a “wait and see” attitude.  Many are actually extremely supportive.

Obviously I don’t know your employer as well as you do.  So disclosing an arrest is understandably a calculated gamble.

Expunctions and Non-Disclosures

See if you are eligible for an expunction or a non-disclosure when your case is over.  These can eliminate or lessen the amount of public information available about your case.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For advice about any situation you should contact a lawyer directly.