Let’s face it… college is a time when a lot of people make a lot of stupid mistakes. Unfortunately for some, those stupid mistakes don’t stop once they have graduated and may continue on for a few years.
I don’t believe in the scarlet letter, though. There IS hope for everyone who has been burdened with a misdemeanor.
What is a misdemeanor?
Misdemeanors, by definition, are lesser criminal acts and punished as such. They usually are accompanied with a monetary slap on the wrist, although repeat offenses may have you spending the night in lockup. It really depends on the class of misdemeanor that you have committed. Some can have you in jail for up to a year.
Examples of misdemeanors? Petty theft, prostitution, public intoxication, disorderly conduct, trespass, vandalism, drug possession, DUI, etc. Having lived in a pretty large college town, I think it is pretty obvious which of these are more common for the younger crowd.
Being charged with a misdemeanor does not make you a bad person, but it may impact your job search.
So… Are You Hirable?
This is the big question.
Generally speaking, yes! Whereas felonies really hurt an applicant, misdemeanors are not nearly as bad. Any company that does a background check will see what you have been convicted of. So the good news is: at least you aren’t a felon!
The thing is, the company that is interviewing you and doing a background check on you will expect a straightforward and honest answer.
“I have a misdemeanor on my record for drunk driving. I was young and just graduating college. I had just found out I had landed the job I really wanted and went out to celebrate with some friends. I, unfortunately, overdid it and thought I was fit to drive. Luckily an officer pulled me over. I learned a lot from that lesson and have since cut back on my drinking substantially, and haven’t driven drunk since.”
By trying to beat around the bush and pretend that you are 100% perfect you will do yourself more harm than good. Honesty is always the best answer even if it may not seem like it at the time. It also has a lot to do with the nature of the offense. If you were 22 and drunk in public, that is a little more understandable and usually won’t be an immediate disqualifier. However, if you did something involving moral depravity such as theft, you have a much harder discussion ahead of you. But, you still have a shot and need to keep going forward.
A large portion of the answer depends on the job you are applying for and the misdemeanor you received. If you are applying for a job as a bank teller, for example, and have a misdemeanor of petty theft as mentioned above, you may have a hard time getting the job. But if you take that same petty theft charge and apply for a job as a lawn care person, you may not face as many obstacles. If you have some sort of domestic violence charge, getting a job as a police officer may be more difficult. This depends on locality, but generally speaking you are not offered “discrimination” protections as a misdemeanant or felon.
As I have mentioned, you may incur obstacles but should be able to find a job somewhere. Just look for a job that does not relate to your misdemeanor and keep your head up. If you need something to keep you afloat, try and do odd jobs for people like cutting grass and painting.
Ways to Fix Your Record
If you are truly facing insurmountable odds, you may have a few options to help your job search.
1) Motion to Expunge
If you went to court over your misdemeanor, contact the court clerk for the court in which your case was heard. Ask them if you are eligible for an expungement. Depending on the severity of the misdemeanor, the amount of time that has passed, and whether or not you are on probation, you may be eligible. Each locality has different rules, so at the least make sure you talk to the court clerk. If you had a lawyer for the original court date, ask him or her if they would be willing to file your motion for you. It will cost money but will be worth it if helps you get a job.
Some motions ask you to put down a reason. You can put something to the effect that you have learned your lesson and the presence of the conviction is hindering your ability to get a good job. Sometimes the motion will be heard in front of a judge so that they can make sure that you still understand the consequences of your previous actions before wiping your record.
The important thing to takeaway is exactly what the judge is checking on: Hopefully you do realize your actions have consequences and the judge is giving you a second chance.
2) “Self Betterment”
If you can not get your record expunged, you will want to take some steps to show that you have, in fact, learned from your lessons.
If you got a drunk in public or DUI, you will want to get evaluated for alcoholism. After taking the MAST (Michigan Alcohol Screening Test), the counselor will recommend what kind of classes you should take (if any). It is important to follow-through and educate yourself on the effects of the drug. If you are ever questioned about the misdemeanor by a potential employer, you can honestly say that you have taken it upon yourself to take steps to educate yourself on the effects of alcohol. That will be a respectable position and will make you look like you are responsible and willing to accept consequences of your actions.
If you had a misdemeanor related to an anger issue, then you would do something similar but with anger management classes. The point is that you want to somehow show that you have improved your life since the misdemeanor.
By doing so the employer will have nothing to fear by hiring you.
Now Go Get Your Job!
Hopefully this helps anyone with a misdemeanor get a job.
Even if you don’t have an issue getting a job, the bit about “self betterment” and learning from your mistakes is an important lesson.
Has anyone had an issue with getting a job because of a misdemeanor? How did you over come it?
Feel free to comment anonymously.