The Disadvantages of a Criminal Background

By Barbara Diggs
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Having a criminal record can impact your life in numerous ways. It may jeopardize your ability to gain employment, buy a home, obtain custody over your children, travel, immigrate or even find new friends. In the legal world, these repercussions are known as the "collateral consequences of criminal charges" or the "four C's." Given the far-reaching consequences of having a criminal record, you may want to consider having your record expunged or pardoned, if possible.

Limits Employment Opportunities

Many employers ask potential employees about their criminal history during the application process. While having a criminal record does not necessarily preclude you from getting a job, some employers are not inclined to hire persons convicted of a crime. In addition, if you are convicted of a felony, there are certain jobs from which you will be automatically disqualified (e.g., private detection, jewelry sales, taxi driver airport personnel).

During the application process, you should be honest about your criminal history. If you are discovered to have lied after being hired, according to the Legal Assistance Resource Center of Conn., you risk being fired and losing unemployment or welfare benefits. You should, however, learn your rights. You are not required to volunteer information about your criminal record if your employer doesn't ask. Further, if your record has been "erased," potential employers do not have the right to question you about it, nor do you have to bring it up.

May Cause Difficulty in Obtaining a Loan

Persons with a criminal history may have a difficult time obtaining a bank loan for a mortgage or starting a business. Lending institutions always take into account the character of the person applying for the loan. They investigate the applicant's criminal record, credit history, family ties and standing in the community. To loan money, the bank must feel confident that the applicant will repay her loan. Having a criminal record (depending on the crime committed) heightens the chance that you will be viewed as a high risk for defaulting on your loan.

May Limit Travel

Having a criminal history may affect your ability to travel to certain countries. When applying for a travel visa, many countries ask whether you have a criminal record. While an affirmative answer will not necessarily bar you from travel, it might--particularly if you have been convicted of a crime involving drugs or firearms. If you have a criminal record, make sure you do your research before making international travel plans.

Inability to Immigrate

In the United States, an immigrant convicted of certain serious crimes can face deportation--even if he is holder of a "green card," which recognizes that person as a permanent, legal resident of the United States.

Loss of Right to Vote

Persons convicted of a felony usually lose their right to vote in state and federal elections. Some states have expanded their franchise laws to include certain felons; however, in most states this fundamental right is still denied. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, some 5.3 million Americans do not have the right to vote because of their criminal convictions.

About the Author

Barbara Diggs is a freelance writer living in France. A former corporate lawyer, she has been writing professionally since 2006. She has been published in numerous print and online magazines, specializing in travel, parenting, history and law. Diggs is a graduate of Wesleyan University and Stanford Law School.

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