Life after prison can be tough. However, even without a prison sentence attached, it can be just as bad with mere arrest.
Between felony and misdemeanor offenses, felonies are known as the greater evil. Misdemeanors are often referred to as lesser or petty crimes. The penalties attached to these crimes also tend to be lesser.
However, the impact on a person’s life and ability to find work can be quite similar. About 80% of arrests are misdemeanor related. So, many do ask: Can I get a job with a misdemeanor on my record?
The job market can be rough with many young people coming of age and eager to take up slots. With clean records, they also become competition for those with misdemeanors and felonies seeking jobs.
In many cases, employers are inclined to hire those without a record. This makes it hard for those with criminal records to find work. The issue has become so bad it is counted as the top reason for recidivism.
Without a well-paying job, many with criminal records are inclined to re-offend as a means of coping. There is the stress of trying to make ends meet and take care of family. This increases the risk of them committing a crime to earn some money.
This is already on top of other trials such as finding decent housing. And trying to acquire professional licenses.
A criminal record has broad impact on a person’s life. It calls for much more effort to achieve goals. Let’s look at what exactly these offenses are and how they can impact work.
Defining A Misdemeanor
As mentioned, misdemeanors are considered a lesser offense to a felony. We can study the case of assault. In misdemeanor assault, there is typically no intent to harm or there is just the threat to harm.
For felony assault, there would have to be actual bodily injury. It can also include the use of a weapon, which often attracts a higher penalty.
So there can be crimes that are classed as both misdemeanors or felonies. The distinction is however pegged on the severity of the offense.
Note that this can be applied differently depending on the jurisdiction. An offense that would be a misdemeanor in one state may be counted as a felony in another.
Even the punishments can vary according to jurisdictions.
Misdemeanors can attract a variety of penalties. But more on this later.
Under federal law, these offenses carry sentences of one year or less. The penalties are decided upon by congress and prosecuted in federal district courts.
At state level, it may also be prosecuted in federal court if the offense was committed on federal property. Federal property can be found just about anywhere, including military bases, parks, and highways.
There is some system to classifying federal misdemeanors:
- Class A misdemeanors – are punishable by imprisonment of up to 12 months
- For Class B misdemeanors – are punishable by imprisonment of up to 6 months
- Class C misdemeanors – are punishable by imprisonment of up to 30 days
Some offenses may be punished with a jail term of no more than 5 days or no prison time at all. These are just considered infractions.
Repeat offenses can also upgrade a charge to felony. For instance, a first-time battery charge can be a misdemeanor. If charged a second time, it can be escalated to a felony offense.
Penalties For A Misdemeanor
Now that we have some idea of what entails misdemeanors, we can now consider the penalties attached.
As much as we have stated that they are lesser offenses, the impact on work-life can be upsetting. Having this offense on your record will make job hunting harder.
However, the impact may somewhat vary depending on the type of penalty incurred.
First, let us look at the types of offenses that can result in a misdemeanor charge. These include, but are not limited to:
- Basic assault
- Property theft
- Indecent exposure
- Disturbing the peace
- Simple drug possession
- Traffic violations
As said, the key distinction between felonies and misdemeanors is the severity of the offense and the penalty given. Typically, the maximum prison sentence for misdemeanor crimes is one year. So besides prison time, a misdemeanor charge may also attract:
- A fine
- Community service
The maximum fine will vary from state to state. Some states may, however, set different limits for different crimes. Others do not specify a limit, leaving it to the discretion of the court.
It is also vital to note that courts may opt to combine penalties. So a convicted person may find they have a prison term to serve and fine to pay.
We have broken down the classes of misdemeanors based on the length of the sentence. But that is not all to it. Often, misdemeanor terms can be served out at a jail rather than a prison.
How A Misdemeanor Affects Job Hunting?
Just like felonies, misdemeanors can have a huge impact on finding work. These days, background checks have become standard practice when hiring.
Even for low-level positions, this is carried out and can be what puts another candidate ahead. For many employers, failing a background check can mean being disqualified.
Many felons and those with misdemeanors have had great interviews. Only to be let down when checks come in.
This can be very discouraging. Repeated rejection from many job applications often leads to recidivism.
Despite this negative reaction, it is always wise to remain truthful. Not all employers will ask about criminal records at the application stage.
Many will wait to carry out the oral interview. If successful, they will then make a conditional job offer pegged on the outcome of a background check.
That means it is a good idea to mention and explain the conviction during the interview. Giving this info early on can be viewed well. Take responsibility for your actions and simply explain the relevant details.
Later we will discuss what other steps you can take to help make a better impression.
Know that any attempt to hide the truth will automatically backfire once the report is done.
The only exceptions to this may be for those that manage to get their records expunged. Or, if background checks in the particular state go back a specific number of years. Some states only allow checks to go back seven years.
In such cases, you can likely get away with not admitting to any criminal past.
Now, let’s look at some other outcomes a misdemeanor conviction can result in.
Consequences Of Having Misdemeanor Criminal Record
Every state or federal misdemeanor has its set of penalties drawn. A court is free to issue penalty within these laws. As said, they can include a mix of prison time, probation, fines, and community service.
There are however a few other consequences, some that can also affect finding work.
Suspended Driving License
This often relates to cases that involve traffic offenses. Running away from the scene of an accident you were part of can result in a suspended driver’s license.
Lying about owning or operating a vehicle to authorities is another offense that qualifies. Repeat traffic offenses and failure to provide proof of insurance can also result in revocation.
In most cases, the suspension period will depend on the severity of the offense. Certain offenses may cause a driving license to be canceled.
Whether suspended or canceled, the loss of a license can affect your ability to commute to work. It can also affect job prospects if you work in transport jobs.
Earning Professional Licenses
Acquiring a professional license can also be affected by a misdemeanor case. Many jobs require one to have a professional license. There is an oversight board, usually at state level, which decides who can carry a license.
After training and possible completion of work hours, you will likely need to apply for a license. Again, background checks are often done as part of the review. Criminal history is often considered incompatible with professions that call for integrity.
Professions that often require licenses to join include teaching, nursing, law, building contractors, and lawyers. Without a license, there is limited ability to enjoy much career growth and earn better wages.
It is said that over 40% of first marriages end in divorce. That is a high number and means that couples with kids will need to work out custody deals.
It is not often that these deals are arrived at affably. They often argue as to who is best placed to care for the kids. This means having to turn to the courts to decide.
Having a criminal record will often work against one’s case. It is an issue that is weighed when making a decision. The judge will, however, factor in the time of offense, severity, and penalties issued.
Another concern may be if the victim of the crime was a member of the family.
Child custody issues will not directly affect work. It can, however, hamper the ability to seek a better job. This is mainly if you do not gain primary custody and have to seek work close to your ex-spouse.
This issue may also affect mental health and confidence.
Many know that a felony conviction can mean the total loss of gun rights. However, some misdemeanors can also affect this.
More specifically, domestic violence cases. Under federal law, this offense bans those convicted of possessing firearms.
Keep in mind that these penalties can also vary by state. Some states, like Pennsylvania, have misdemeanor offenses with penalties that exceed two years’ imprisonment. These offenses can trigger the firearms ban.
It is also important to note that loss of gun rights is attached to the maximum possible sentence for the offense. Not the actual sentence given.
Loss of gun rights can affect those in military or law enforcement careers that require the use of firearms.
Landlords and their agents also carry out background checks on likely tenants. While they are not supposed to discriminate based on criminal past, the reality can be different.
This is another problem that many convicted of misdemeanors suffer. Because of their past, they are considered high-risk and denied access to decent housing.
This can affect work as there is a commute involved. If a person cannot stay within a reasonable distance from their work, it can result in long commuting hours. It can also prove costly.
Financial Aid For Education
For those that desire to pursue college, federal student aid programs are a big help. The costs involved in attending college can often be steep. From tuition to books, many have to get other help to cover expenses.
With a criminal past, many end up disqualified for this. This can, however, often depend on the type of crime or sentencing past.
Drug-related misdemeanor offenses can result in the suspension of federal aid. It is, however, possible to regain eligibility by going through drug rehab.
Two convictions of sale of drugs and three convictions of possession can, however, end this eligibility.
This issue can affect career prospects by limiting access to further training. Earning a higher degree can help in career progress and qualifying for some professional licenses.
Certain misdemeanor offenses can be considered grounds for inadmissibility for those hoping to get a green card. Drug offenses and crimes of moral turpitude fall into this class.
It does not even matter if the case did not result in imprisonment. In some cases, just confessing to certain elements of the crime without a conviction can still count. It can be enough of a factor to concern immigration officials.
Some offenses that can count towards inadmissibility include petty theft, simple assault, and misdemeanor domestic violence.
It is worthwhile to consult a lawyer on how to go about applying for a waiver. This may help cure the grounds of inadmissibility.
How To Mitigate A Misdemeanor Disclosure
As there are misdemeanors that stop hiring, one should have a plan on how to solve the problem.
This allows for the sealing of arrest and conviction records. It means that when a standard background check is carried out, there should be no proof of the fact.
This is a good result that ensures you do not have to mention your crime even if asked. The conditions that qualify for this relief vary from state to state. Consult a lawyer to find out if you can apply for this.
Seek Felony Friendly Employers
Another good way to ensure your criminal actions have a limited effect on hiring is to find suitable employers. Some companies do support second chances. They join campaigns like Ban-the-Box and the Fair Chances Business Pledge.
These aim to help those with criminal pasts gain better access to jobs. Focus your job-hunting on such firms will improve your chances of finding a job.
Such companies include Starbucks, Unilever, Walmart, Google, and CVS Health. The military and trucking firms are also known for considering those with criminal convictions.
Give A Good Interview
How you handle the interview process plays a big role in getting hired. Honesty is very key. Only if you have secured an expungement, can your crimes not come up during a background check.
You will need to work out how to bring up the issue, even if you are not asked. Give full details. This is vital as it will be weighed against the results of the check.
An interview gives you a chance to offer your side of the story. However, always be sure to take responsibility for your actions.
Get a friend or family member to help you practice your answers to interview questions. Use this chance to voice out this info.
Build A Good CV And Referees
To help bolster your application, you need to build a good CV. Besides academic and job training, consider volunteer work. This projects the persona of someone eager to give back to society.
You can also use contacts made while volunteering as referees. They can speak well about your conduct and dedication to work. It can help add to the positive image being cultivated.
In answer to the question: ‘do misdemeanors affect jobs?’, the answer is yes. But, since misdemeanors are lesser offenses, you can downplay the severity of what you did when looking for work. Mainly if it did not end in you serving jail time.
However, if you do qualify for expungement, apply for this relief. It will make finding a decent job or housing easier.