If you’ve ever been charged with a misdemeanor, you might have questions about how it will affect your life.
Maybe you were caught speeding or shoplifting as a teenager and are worried that it will come back to haunt you. Perhaps you’ve been arrested for public intoxication and wonder if it will impact your employment prospects.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about misdemeanors. By the end, you’ll better understand how misdemeanors can affect your life and what you can do to mitigate the damage.
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Table of Contents
Misdemeanors are minor crimes, but they are still categorized as a crime. It means it will appear on your criminal record the same way a felony would. Some examples of misdemeanors include traffic offenses, petty theft, trespassing, and public intoxication.
While it is possible to go to jail for a misdemeanor, you will more likely receive a sentence of probation, community service, or a fine. The punishment for a misdemeanor depends on the severity of the crime and your criminal history.
The maximum punishment for a misdemeanor offense in many United States jurisdictions is 12 months, often served at less-secure local city or county jails rather than higher-security prisons.
Misdemeanors are classified differently in each state, with some states using a numbering system from 1 to 4 and others using letters from A to D. The actual classification doesn’t matter much because what’s important to know is that Class 1 and Class A misdemeanors are more severe than 2 or B, respectively.
There are several factors that authorities consider when assessing the severity of a misdemeanor. Some of these factors include the level of damages, the victim, the defendant’s behavior, and other criminal records.
Misdemeanors will typically appear on background checks, but it also depends on the type of check being done.
If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor, unless state law prohibits it, criminal background checks will reveal this information. These checks may also show pending cases, history of incarceration, and in some instances, arrests.
Employment background checks usually include a criminal background to authenticate employment history, education, and professional licenses. As part of pre-employment verification, Misdemeanor screening might also include assessing the candidate’s driving records and drug testing.
County courts handle most misdemeanor offenses, and they store the records. If the background check only looks at state or multi-jurisdictional level information, the record might or might not reflect in the report.
Misdemeanors remain on your record permanently unless they are expunged or sealed by a judge. It means that any time someone runs a background check on you (for employment, housing, etc.), your misdemeanor offense could show up.
People usually file for misdemeanor expungement. Different factors will affect your likelihood of having your record expunged like: where you live, how much time has passed since you were convicted, the misdemeanor itself, and whether you have any other criminal offenses on your history.
Generally, you can expunge or seal your misdemeanor in many states. The crime will be hidden as if the event never occurred.
The courts will consider the severity of the crime when deliberating whether to grant an expungement application. More severe crimes, such as violent offenses or sex crimes, typically are not eligible for expungement. Less serious offenses, including most misdemeanors, may be expunged or sealed.
There are other things courts will consider when deciding whether to approve expungement. For example, a judge typically examines how much time has gone by since the offense and if the offender has been acting well in those years.
A person who recently committed the crime or continues breaking the law is less likely to get their record erased than someone whose single offense occurred ten years ago with no criminal activity since then.
Expungement laws vary by state, so you should check to see if your conviction is eligible. If it is, you should seek legal help. A lawyer can guide you through the petition process and present your side of the story in court.
The misdemeanor charge is legally removed if the court approves your request. The misdemeanor should no longer appear on background check reports and cannot be used against you during a job application.
You can still pass the background check and get a job even if you have a misdemeanor. It depends on the employer’s hiring standards and the job you’re applying for.
Much like background checks, whether or not misdemeanors affect job applications depends on individual circumstances, such as the offense’s severity and how long it took place.
In some cases, like when applying for jobs that require a security clearance, a misdemeanor might automatically disqualify you from consideration. However, a misdemeanor might not have any impact when applying for jobs that do not require a security clearance.
It can be hard to find a job when you have a criminal conviction, but it is essential, to be honest about it. You can spin your experience positively by talking about what you learned and how you’ve grown since then.
People with criminal convictions often get into more trouble for trying to hide them while job searching than they do for having the convictions on their records. Even if an employer does not inquire about your criminal history, it is in your best interest to disclose any misdemeanors during the application and interview process.
You should not be afraid of background checks even if you have a misdemeanor on your record. You can still pass the background check and get a job even if you have a misdemeanor.
Expungement laws vary by state, so you should check to see if your conviction is eligible. If it is, you should seek legal help. If it makes you feel more comfortable, you can try to get the misdemeanor charge expunged.
Ultimately, the best way to deal with it is by being honest. Talk to your potential employer about your experience and how you’ve grown since then.
Most employers are more understanding than you think and would hire someone honest rather than someone trying to hide something.