The Group No One Wants to Join
If you think your criminal record is holding you back, you're not alone. In fact, you're just one of almost one-third of working-age Americans with a criminal record. But is being part of this growing group of Americans a good thing? Perhaps it is, but let's explore why.
The Rising Minority
Studies have shown the number of Americans with criminal records nearly equals the number of Americans with college degrees. In spite of this fact, those with criminal records are denied employment, housing, and financial assistance every day. They face greater discrimination in the workforce and face more obstacles to securing the trust of landlords and lenders. Despite the large percentage of Americans with criminal records, those with convictions still struggle to move on with their lives.
The good news is, today, there are more ways to clean your record. With demand comes supply. The demand for record cleaning is great as criminal records are now accessible online to the public, making it easier for people such as landlords and employers to view your criminal record. Record cleaning is a big industry now and for a good reason. Cleaning your record can put you ahead of those who make the mistake of leaving their record as-is. And in California's increasingly competitive job and housing market, that slight advantage can make a big impact. While cleaning your record will take some legwork and a fee, the benefits outweigh the costs.
Is the Stigma Is Less?
Think being part of the one-third of working-age adults with criminal records will reduce the stigma? Think again. Because the population of people with criminal records has grown so quickly, society's view of them hasn't yet caught up. There is still a lot of stigma surrounding criminal behavior. Those with criminal records are looked down on, discriminated, and treated unfairly. This encourages people to stay silent about their criminal pasts. This, in turn, reinforces the stigma.
Are We Protected?
If you already have a criminal background, don't expect society to change overnight and become accepting. In the meantime, know that your rights are expanding. California is establishing new protections for those with criminal backgrounds in terms of finding employment. But those protections still aren't enough.
In 2018, the “Ban the Box” movement in California grew. Now, most public and private employers are prohibited from asking about criminal backgrounds or running criminal background checks until they've fully considered the applicant's merits. But employers can still run background checks after giving applicants an offer conditional on a background check. At that point, employers have a certain amount of discretion when considering criminal backgrounds. They still retain the right to deny employment because of a criminal background but must give good reasoning. Typically, they must show that the conviction would impact the individual's ability to do the job or would otherwise compromise the performance of the employee or his or her co-workers. They must also provide written reasoning to the denied applicant.
What That Means for You
While the rights of people with criminal backgrounds are growing more robust, people still discriminate against those with criminal convictions. You may be part of a growing minority, so good times are ahead. But, for now, it's important to protect yourself and your rights. Run a background check on yourself to make sure it is error-free. You have a right to correct any errors you might find.
Also, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney in California to explore your options for cleaning your record. There are many ways you can clean your record to remove pieces of information from your record others might use against you. You can petition the court to dismiss certain misdemeanors. This would remove the guilty plea or verdict from your record and show that the offense was dismissed in the interests of justice. Histories of arrests that did not end in a conviction can also be removed. Certain felonies can be reduced to misdemeanors and even dismissed in certain situations. Every piece of information you can erase will markedly improve your chances of getting a job, a loan, or an apartment.
If you are facing criminal charges, we can help you defend yourself. California attorney Christopher Martens knows California criminal defense and will help you fight for your rights. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Mr. Martens has handled thousands of cases and has helped many Californians fight their charges. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide expert criminal defense counsel. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.