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Expunction of a criminal record can enhance employment opportunities

Texas law permits people to permanently remove information about an arrest, charge or conviction from their permanent records in certain circumstances.

Business Week magazine recently reported that Cory Booker and Rand Paul, “two celebrity senators who draw a lot of attention,” have teamed up to tackle an issue that tends not to draw a lot of attention: reform of the criminal justice system. The bill introduced in the U.S. Senate by Booker and Paul is commonly referred to as the REDEEM Act. The REDEEM Act would, among other things, incentivize states to stop trying teens under 18 as adults and ban solitary confinement for most juvenile offenders.

A major component of the REDEEM Act pertains to expunction (sometimes referred to as expungement) of criminal records. Expunction is the permanent removal of information about one’s arrest, charge or conviction from the criminal records. The REDEEM Act would make it easier to get non-violent federal crimes expunged. Further, the REDEEM Act would provide an incentive for states to liberalize their expunction laws by making available more monies for community policing. Senator Paul was quoted as saying that a criminal record was “the biggest impediment to civil rights and employment in our country.”

According to the National Institute for Justice, almost one-third of all American adults have been arrested at least once by age 23. Unfortunately, even those who have paid their debt to society have problems getting a job thereby trapping them in a cycle of poverty and public assistance. In this regard, the Institute observes that the majority of employers questioned in a survey indicated that they would “probably” or “definitely” not hire an applicant who has a criminal record.

Research shows the frequent use by major corporations of what amounts to blanket “no-hire” policies for applicants with a criminal background. The motivating factor behind such decisions is that employers do not desire to hire people who might possibly present a risk of harm to customers and other employees. However, at the same time, a good well-paying job is crucial to reintegrating an individual into society and deterring him or her from relapsing into criminal activity.

It is important for society and business owners to realize that the lion’s share of arrests in America are, in reality, for relatively minor and nonviolent offenses-often youthful indiscretions. Of the millions of arrests per year, only four percent involve serious major crimes such as murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Many of the people seeking to have their records sealed or expunged do not pose a risk of physical harm to others.

Texas law

The Texas Bar Association notes that “everyone, at some point, has made a bad mistake or has been in the wrong place at the wrong time resulting in trouble.” Regrettably, a permanent cloud can be cast over us if the mistake results in an arrest, charge or conviction. Texas law is, unfortunately, not especially lenient in granting expunctions. While most convictions cannot be removed from a person’s record under current Texas law, Texas does permit individuals to seek expunction of information about an arrest, charge or conviction in certain circumstances. If one’s record is expunged under Texas law, all information is removed from the criminal record and the person can thereafter deny that the unfortunate incident ever happened thus considerably brightening his or her employment prospects.

Seek legal counsel

The overall consensus is that the Texas expunction laws are complex and somewhat confusing. If you are interested in having a criminal record expunged, or have questions as to your eligibility, you should contact a Texas attorney who has experience in seeking expunctions.