What You Should Know About Conviction Records
Criminal convictions can be hard to understand. It can also be daunting to find out how to lookup conviction records. Whether you’ve been charged and convicted or you’re helping a friend or family member who has, knowing the law and essential legal terms is a must. Use this guide to learn more about criminal convictions and what they really mean. A conviction record means that someone has been convicted of a crime and now has a criminal record. Criminal conviction records can be found online with many public record database resources. A conviction record is a public record that anyone can view.
What is a Criminal Conviction?
The concept of criminal convictions is one that should be fairly easy to understand, but when you’re dealing with anything related to the law, having a clear working definition is always best. In the simplest terms, a criminal conviction is the result of a court finding a person guilty. While some legalese is involved here, convictions are generally reserved for individuals who plead guilty, no contest or perform certain actions like skipping bail before a court date.
However, in colloquial terms, a conviction is pretty much any guilty verdict that comes about via a court case. While the courts may have a slightly different definition, almost anybody found guilty of a crime, whether they plead guilty, no contest or go through a long, drawn out trial will have a conviction on their criminal record.
Note that a simple criminal charge is not considered a conviction. You have to plead or be found guilty for a judgement to be entered against you.
What Types of Conviction Records Exist?
Many different court systems can convict somebody of a crime. However, there are a few main types of convictions that are most common:
• Felony convictions. Felony convictions are reserved for major crimes generally deemed very serious by society. These might include assault, drug distribution, grand theft, manslaughter or murder. Felony convictions may include seemingly lesser offenses like tax fraud if the stakes are high enough. Felony convictions are classified from first-degree to third-degree in order of seriousness, with capital convictions being reserved for major crimes like murder.
• Misdemeanor convictions. Misdemeanor convictions are generally considered lesser crimes. These often include simple battery, possession of drugs or driving under the influence (DUI) if nobody is injured.
• Other conviction types. Felony and misdemeanor convictions are by far the most common, but other conviction types do exist. For example, a conviction in immigration court may be put on your record, but is generally not considered to be the same type of crime as a felony or misdemeanor.
How Can a Criminal Conviction Impact a Person’s Future?
Criminal convictions can make some parts of daily life more difficult. Here are a few ways that a criminal conviction can impact a person’s future down the road:
• A conviction may make it harder to get a job. Some companies won’t hire individuals with a criminal background. This is particularly true of individuals who have committed a felony crime within the last 10 years.
• You may not be granted access to certain professional organizations or be banned from practicing in fields like law or medicine depending on the nature of your crime.
• You may lose or be unable to gain custody of a child.
• Privileges like driving, voting or owning a weapon or firearm may be revoked.
• Criminal convictions can impact your immigration status.
Do I Need to Disclose Convictions on Job Applications?
In general, the answer to this question is yes. However, not all job applications are going to ask you whether or not you have been convicted of a crime. It’s also important to note that disclosure may not be required in all cases.
For example, a job application may ask if you have ever been convicted of a felony. A person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor and charged with a felony but never convicted does not have to disclose this information legally. When filling out a job application, working through the wording is essential if you feel your background may otherwise disqualify you.
Some job applicants have found success disclosing past convictions early in the process, showing that they have put that problematic behavior behind them. This may be an option for you, but not that it’s not a guarantee of employment.
Disclosing information when not asked may disqualify you from a job as well, so you’ll need to decide the right course of action for yourself and the situation at hand.
Can All Criminal Records Be Expunged or Sealed?
In many cases, criminal records can be expunged or sealed, making them inaccessible to the general public. This typically happens about five to 10 years after any sentencing is complete. However, this process may take longer.
You’ll need to apply to have your records sealed or expunged via the court that provided the conviction. Serious offenses like drug trafficking, attempted murder, murder and sexual assault are generally not expunged or sealed under any circumstances unless the individual charged was a minor at the time the crime was committed.
Criminal convictions can hold you back in life, making it hard to find employment or enjoy basic privileges like driving or voting in a presidential election. For individuals from other countries, a conviction can put your citizenship or resident status in jeopardy.
Knowing how convictions work and what they mean can be confusing. If you need further
assistance understanding your case, a qualified attorney can help you get a grasp on what a conviction record really means for you. You may also be able to work with them to have older convictions expunged or sealed so they no longer appear on your record.