I recently read an article that appeared in the online version of the Wall Street Journal about the ongoing fight to insure that criminal records are really expunged not only in the court of original jurisdiction, but also in all the databases that collect criminal records and sell them to employers and landlords. Databases aren’t the only place where arrest and conviction records appear. They can also be found in local and online newspapers and other sources of news, which aren’t affected by an order that a criminal order be expunged.
But there’s a more fundamental misunderstanding out there that can have an adverse impact on job seekers and also on people who are prospective renters. Many folks think that, just because someone was arrested, that they’re also guilty of whatever offense with which they’re charged! Well, folks, that’s just not so! An arrest is absolutely not the same thing as a conviction!
An arrest is merely the allegation of some type of wrongdoing, which may or may not be true. Despite the arrest, there is always a presumption in the law that the person accused of committing a crime is innocent until proven guilty! There are dozens of reasons why the state may not file a charge against the person arrested – far too many to discuss here – but the point remains that not everyone arrested is guilty. It’s also possible that, even if the case goes before a judge or jury, the verdict may be “not guilty.”
Despite all that, the record of the arrest will still be out there, even if a request to have the whole thing expunged is approved. So, it is a terrible mistake for an employer to deny employment solely on the basis of the record of an arrest. Until the outcome of the arrest is known, an employment decision simply should not be made!