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    What do I put on a job application if I′m asked about prior arrests?

    Date: 08.31.07 | by Judge Tom.

    You should write the truth. The exact phrasing of the question on the application is important. There′s a difference between being arrested for a crime and being convicted of a crime.

    You may be arrested by the police, with no further action taken. If you′re not charged with a crime and are released from custody, the arrest may remain on your record. This means that the arrest may show up in a computer check with local police or FBI.

     Did you know that:

    • Approximately 2.1 million persons under 18 were arrested in 2008—most were 16 and 17.
    • 32% of juveniles arrested in 2003 were under age 15. Most of them were arrested for arson, vandalism, theft, running away, assault, or burglary.  [Juvenile Offenders and Victims: A National Report, National Center for Juvenile Justice (2006)]

    Photo by Yoel Ben-Avraham

    If you answer “no” on a job application when, in fact, you were arrested, you′ll have to explain the situation. Employers are reluctant to hire someone who isn′t straightforward and honest. After indicating that you were arrested, you might further volunteer that charges were never filed or that an error was made. Explain in a short statement whatever happened at the time of the incident.

    On the other hand, the question on the application might be whether you′ve ever been convicted of a crime. There′s no getting around the question—either you were convicted (found guilty of the charge) or you weren′t.  Simply answer the question. If you feel an explanation should be made, add a brief statement.

    Having a record may prevent you from getting certain jobs. Depending on the type of job and the nature of your record, an employer can legally decline to hire you. For example, if you have two speeding tickets and you apply to be a messenger for a local company, you′re not likely to get the job because of insurance restrictions. Once you′re hired for a job, however, you qualify for certain rights including anti-discrimination protections in the workplace.

    If you are interested in clearing your record, read here about expunging juvenile records.

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    3 Comments subscribe to these comments.

    • julie
      Thu, 07 May 2009 at 06:18

      thank you! helpful & informative per the kids :)

    • Honey
      Thu, 22 Sep 2011 at 10:19

      How many times can the H.R.person interegate you and drill you,can she be mean and talk down to you hoping that she can get information out of you, especially when when you dont know anything
      Dear Honey: If you believe you are being harassed at work by this person, perhaps you could speak with her supervisor or your boss. If there is an Employee Manual, check it out and see what it says about reporting this type of behavior. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice.)

    • Tanisha
      Sun, 20 Nov 2011 at 06:47

      Hi.I have a few questions.Back in 9th grade at the age of 14 I was arrested along with a friend for shopplifting.Im sure it was a felony because the amount was over $199. It was her 2nd arrest and my first.Being a child of someone who is in active duty (military) comes to show how dumb I was, considering the fact that I wasnt in need of money, I did it just to do it. My mom payed 2000(down payment) for a lawyer and I had to complete diversion. No community service.I havent got into any trouble with the law since and dont plan on it.Im applying for a job at McDonalds (on base because this is where I live),im curious as to what I should fill in when they ask about convictions,records,ect .
      Dear Tanisha: Because you completed a diversion program, you should not have any record of a conviction. However, some states continue to show what the original charges were on a juvenile record, but that ultimately the charges were dismissed. It’s important to read the language very carefully on any application. If it asks whether you have any convictions, you can answer “no”. Most employers are usually only concerned with convictions and do not ask whether you have faced criminal charges or completed diversion. Also, since your case was most likely handled out of juvenile court, it’s extremely unlikely that the offense would show up on a background check by a potential employer like McDonald’s. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice.)

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