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FELONY VS. MISDEMEANORS: WHY A 23-YEAR-OLD BOX IS NO LONGER WORKING.

Many individuals may brush off a misdemeanor offense, thinking it was or is no big deal. They may quickly plead guilty to avoid the expense and publicity of a trial, thinking that a misdemeanor will not affect them. However, any criminal conviction can have long-lasting consequences. If you are concerned about criminal convictions of any kind, you should arm yourself with the knowledge of felonies vs. misdemeanors and instant background check software.

FELONIES VS. MISDEMEANORS

While felony offenses are usually considered to be more serious by most people, misdemeanors are also considered to be serious offenses. The main distinction between a felony and a misdemeanor is the potential criminal sentence that the convicted individual can receive. Misdemeanor defendants can still be imprisoned. However, this imprisonment is usually for a maximum of one year. Felony defendants may face over one year’s imprisonment.

Another distinction between a felony conviction and a misdemeanor conviction is the potential fine. Felony defendants may be ordered to pay fines for their criminal acts and court costs. Misdemeanor defendants may face the same consequence. However, fines associated with felony convictions are usually higher.

One of the most conflicting things about felonies and misdemeanors, is that they can change per state. These examples of raw offense documents show why the traditional felony and misdemeanor breakdown is broken and may be worse than using clear categories to determine someone’s criminal history.

THE SETBACK OF CRIMINAL RECORDS

Defendants convicted of any crime or violation, regardless of how serious, will have a criminal record. This record will follow them wherever they go. If the individual is subsequently convicted of another offense, the defendant may be considered a repeat defendant. Even if he or she is innocent of this second charge, he or she may be advised not to testify at trial if this record can be brought up.s. 

Often, having a criminal record can hinder employment with certain employers who have blanket policies against hiring anyone with a criminal record. Some employers may have policies that prohibit applicants who have certain types of convictions, such as crimes involving fraud, dishonesty, theft or violence. Even a misdemeanor conviction can result in a denied application, which has the effect of potentially stunting the possible earnings and career development of the defendant. 

College admissions office may be able to learn about the conviction and may deny admission into an educational program because of it. Additionally, future landlords may encounter the record when checking an applicant’s background. They may deny residency due to such a conviction.

CONSEQUENCES TO LICENSE AND CERTIFICATIONS

Even having a moving violation or other traffic ticket can have significant consequences on a defendant. For example, a person may have his or her license suspended or revoked after accumulating too many driving points or infractions.

Additionally, a criminal conviction may affect a person’s professional license. Many jobs require a person to maintain certain ethical standards, including positions in governmental offices, teachers, nurses, lawyers and individuals who act as fiduciaries. The individual may be required to report this information to the professional licensing board and may face suspension, revocation or non-renewal of his or her license.

“BAN THE BOX” DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE HIRING CRIMINALS

According to the NAACP, more than 600,000 individuals leave U.S. prisons each year and approximated 95% are eventually released into local communities and their workforce nationwide. It’s not against the law to exclude candidates from the hiring process, provided you

treat everyone equally. Accord to US law, you are not guilty of discriminating against candidates based on negative criminal history, so long as you treat all candidates the same. However, the manner in which employers use the box to check for felonies and misdemeanors is outdated.

Ban the Box promotes employers to not ask about arrest history and to remove the question about criminal history from the initial job application forms and to ask the question about criminal history only in instances where it relates to the job in question. Instead, the question about criminal history would be asked during the face-to-face interview or after a conditional job offer has been made to the applicant contingent upon the criminal instant background check. This provides employment opportunities to people with criminal records by not allowing employers to “blanket ban” them from employment.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) argues that ban-the-box laws unnecessarily mask relevant criminal-record information about prospective employees that could affect the safety and security of the business, its workers and customers, as well as make the hiring process more difficult. However, it can also leave out a very lage workforce that is often overlooked for a minor infraction on their record. Ultimately, access to gainful employment will improve the quality of life for people with criminal records and the communities in which they live, which will reduce recidivism and increase public safety. This is especially important for communities of color with African-Americans comprising 14% of the U.S. population, but 40% of the U.S. incarcerated population.

You cannot exclude one candidate of a particular group but allow another one to continue in the process. This includes anybody with an employee criminal record. Potential candidates for employment, contract work, or volunteer time have a right to know that you are running an instant background check, and to know which negative information you have discovered, and why they may be excluded from the hiring process.

USE DATA TO MAKE DECISIONS

You may think that you need to know everything about a candidate’s history, and there are certainly things that you do need to discover about potential new hires. Sometimes hiring managers delve too deeply into records that don’t necessarily have bearing on a position, however, and discover things that they don’t need to know and that complicate the hiring process. Other important records you should check for before disqualifying a candidate may include:

• Wanted Person

• Criminal History

• Arrest records

• Sex Offender

• Terrorism Watchlist

  • Sanctioned/Banned lists

Instant background check solutions like FedCheck utilize the power of data, and only show the information that you care about when it comes to screening volunteers, vendors, or pre-screening potential employees. Decide what really matters to the position you’re looking to fill before you go straight to asking for felonies and misdemeanors because, as stated above, they can be so far and wide as to what classifies them both. Unless an arrest record will affect the job, employees, or your reputation, don’t allow it to muddy the waters of great talent. It will save you a lot of potential trouble and may help to ensure that you don’t exclude the ideal candidate on a technicality.