Monday, September 5, 2011

Convictions and Employment


When a person is convicted of a criminal offense in Georgia, he or she will usually be facing jail time, fines, community service, and other conditions and terms of a sentence.  However, there are also collateral consequences that may be suffered as the result of a conviction.  These include, but are not limited to, loss of voting rights, gun rights, housing opportunities, government assistance, and the imposition of sex offender registry requirements under some circumstances.  While these and other consequences can significantly hinder a convicted person’s living a normal life, the most devastating collateral consequence is probably the loss of employment opportunities.

Ex-offenders who apply for employment usually face questions about their arrest and conviction record.  Further, a private or public employer can, with consent, obtain arrest/conviction records from the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC).

GCIC was established in 1973 as a division of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and charged with the responsibility for creating a statewide, central repository for the collection, maintenance, and dissemination of criminal records for all local law enforcement and criminal justice agencies.  Today, GCIC is required to obtain and preserve finger prints, descriptions, photographs, and any other pertinent identifying data for individuals arrested or taken into custody for felonies and certain categories of misdemeanors and violations of ordinances and to develop, operate, and maintain an information system which will support the collection, storage, retrieval, and dissemination of all crime and offender data.  In other words, if you have been in trouble with the law in Georgia, chances are that there is a record and that record is located at GCIC.

Most of my clients tell me that the majority of employment applications ask if the applicant has ever been convicted of a crime.  The applicant should always answer this question truthfully.  The employer is going to find out anyway.  If the conviction is for a misdemeanor not involving theft (such as a DUI), this should not affect most employment opportunities.  However, if the conviction is for misdemeanor theft or for a felony, employment opportunities can be very limited.  (Applicants who are on First Offender Felony Probation are not convicted felons and can honestly answer that they have not been convicted of a crime).

In some instances, the employer may reject the applicant based simply on a record of arrest without any consideration of whether the arrest resulted in a conviction.  Georgia law does not restrict an employer’s right to consider arrests not leading to conviction, and the state does not have standards prohibiting employment discrimination based on an arrest or conviction record.

These employment consequences can negatively impact a person’s basic psychological and economic well-being.  I have found that difficulty in finding employment is one of the greatest burdens to the reintegration of ex-offenders into society.    

For those people facing criminal charges or have been previously arrested, there are two things that may be worth considering.  First, make sure that you and your attorney are thoroughly prepared to address not only the direct but the collateral consequences of the criminal case.  Second, make sure that your GCIC record is accurate.  You can obtain a copy of your GCIC record by making a request at your local sheriff’s department.  If your record is inaccurate, Georgia law provides for a procedure for its correction.  

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