An Era of Transparency
Our lives are online, whether we like it or not. Even if you don't share your personal life with friends online, chances are someone could view your personal information with just a click of a button. And the information that can be discovered is the kind that can hurt you the most. Primarily, I'm talking about your criminal record. If you are arrested for, charged with, or convicted of a crime, almost anyone can find out about it, in most cases. There are some exceptions, of course, but the point is, having a run-in with the law leaves you vulnerable to the worse kind of discrimination. Despite the fact that an estimated one in three working Americans has a criminal record, a conviction can hold you back in more ways than you realize. This is just one way technology is changing the way we view criminals, simply because it's now easy to discover just how many of us are walking around with a criminal history.
Then and Now
In the past, people had to physically search for records of criminal convictions at the courthouse. Unless they knew the specific court that convicted someone, it was sometimes a matter of trial and error. This process was so inefficient that fewer employers and landlords ran criminal background checks. Today, background checks are inevitable when being screened for almost anything from jobs and volunteer opportunities to housing and loans. Commercial background check companies make a living off of providing your information to people, and all they care about is getting paid. It's a service industry, which highlights the immense demand for criminal background checks. Unfortunately, if you are on the other end of the search as a person with a criminal record, these companies can be your worst enemy.
Commercial background check companies pull data from many courts at once and package it into an easy to interpret format. But there are some drawbacks that you, as someone with a criminal record, should know about.
For one, these databases aren't always up to date. In fact, it can take up to three months for commercial background checks to reflect a dismissal or sealing of records. These companies periodically run checks, but the data is not in real time. So, if you take steps to clean your record or discover errors on your criminal background check, you should demand the information be updated. This is your right to contest inaccurate information on your background checks.
Also, even if your conviction was dismissed, commercial background check companies may still be able to access records of your arrest and charges, which can raise a red flag for potential employers or landlords. While most private employers are prohibited from using records of an arrest that did not end in a conviction against you, some do not follow this law.
Prosecuting Your Online Presence
Another way technology is changing the way we see criminals is prosecuting attorneys sometimes turn to social media accounts to gather evidence to use against you. Criminals are now seen as online prey. Prosecutors may look through years of social media activity to find evidence to convict you. Your life is not private anymore. And if you're facing criminal charges, my first piece of advice is to clean up your social media accounts and watch how you conduct yourself online. People are now being charged with crimes for what they post on social media, and in some cases, judges can issue severe punishments for those that record violent felonies. The bottom line is, the information the police gather at the scene of the crime might be the tip of the evidence iceberg.
Technology has changed the way we view criminals. Criminals and those accused of crimes no longer have a place to hide. The details of their lives can be easily accessed during and after criminal cases. Anyone can find out about a criminal conviction, and there are companies that capitalize on the tendency for people to distrust. Therefore, you should take criminal charges seriously, even if you just want to plead guilty and move on with your life. There is no moving on from a criminal conviction if your record follows you wherever you go. So consider this before you appear in court or plead guilty without the advice of a California criminal defense attorney.
Facing criminal charges can be overwhelming, but experienced Visalia area criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens can help you navigate the process of defending your rights and clearing your name. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can help you build a strategic defense to fight your charges. Attorney Martens has practiced criminal defense for over ten years and knows how to defend your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.