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

October 14, 2020

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(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.

Associated Press Finds Stunning Inaccuracies on Background Checks

December 22, 2011

By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 562-7549

Did you know 90% of employers do background checks since 9/11?  Criminal background searches are now a $2 billion per year industry and due to increased digitalization of court records — mom and pop background check companies are beginning to spring up.  They don’t seem to have the resources or desire to get things right.

And here’s the scary part — most of the leading background check companies wouldn’t even return the AP’s phone calls to discuss how many of their files were inaccurate.  They currently use automated systems which scrub online databases run by governmental entities with flawed formulas that misinterpret information the human eye might spot.  They commonly botch common names and stick the wrong people with criminal charges.  Many are also very poor at updating their information when criminal cases are expunged or non-disclosed.

You can read the article in it’s entirety here.  There are few articles out there that are must-reads.  This is one of them.

From a criminal defense lawyer perspective — fighting to keep someone’s record clean is pointless if some company who doesn’t care about what they report calls you a criminal anyway and costs you a job.

Another main point to take from the AP article is no one will care about making sure your criminal history is clean as much as you will.  Making sure you have a clean history is every bit as important as checking your credit score.

*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 any specific situation, you should contact an attorney directly.  Contacting the attorney through this forum does not create an attorney-client relationship.  Communications sent through this blog are not confidential.

Am I Eligible for an Expunction?

August 29, 2010

By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 562-7549

I get asked this question a lot by people that went through the system years and even decades before they come to see me.

Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Chapter 55 governs expunctions.  It can be fairly complex in spots, but as a general rule you’re entitled to an acquittal on a Class B Misdemeanor or above if you’ve been tried and acquitted of the charges.  Also, you’re entitled to expunction where you were arrested for a misdemeanor or felony offense and never charged by indictment or information and the statute of limitations has passed.  On Class C Misdemeanors you’re generally entitled to expunction if you are placed on deferred adjudication and there is no community supervision ordered but there are exceptions.

Several Class C offenses can be used to enhance crimes in the future.  An example is with a Class C assault with a family violence allegation.  Even though it’s a Class C punishable by a fine only, a second offense — no matter how small — can be charged as a felony!

Other conditions of an expunction are that you are not subject to prosecution for anything else regarding the criminal episode which is the subject of the expunction and you can’t get an expunction if you were convicted of a felony offense within 5 years of the date of the arrest you are trying to get expunged.

Often people don’t know exactly what happened with their previous case.  Finding out the legal result should be done prior to seeing a lawyer.  Also the laws on expunctions change frequently so you may not want to assume you can get something expunged later because you never know when the Legislature and/or Governor in Austin will snatch that right away from you!

*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 you should consult an attorney directly.