“I had no idea I had a criminal record.” Several times a year a person will call me to tell me they just received a call from a prospective employer that unfortunately the person could not be hired based on a prior conviction. Prior convictions can also raise problems on college applications. This often happens with young people who go to court without their parents’ knowledge and try to handle a situation themselves. You may be asking how someone wouldn’t know they had a conviction. Consider the following all too common scenario.

A twenty-year old man is a passenger in a car pulled over for expired registration tags. Upon approaching the vehicle, the officer smells marijuana. The officer sees a bag of marijuana in plain view and asks the occupants of the car to whom it belongs. No one accepts responsibility so the officer arrests all the occupants and takes them to jail, including the twenty-year old. He is in college and doesn’t want his parents to find out. He goes to his arraignment alone and the prosecutor offers the young man a “deal.” The prosecutor will give the man a day to serve with credit for the day. The young man can walk out of court and no one will be the wiser.

The prosecutor never fully explained that the young man was pleading guilty to possession of marijuana. The young man assumed that since he did the day in jail and got credit for it that nothing would be on his record. Now every prospective employer or professional school will see this young man has a criminal drug conviction. In our competitive world today, a young person with a criminal history will have a hard time competing against a young person without a record. If the young man had an attorney, he had an excellent chance of successfully defending the charge to a complete acquittal, or at a minimum working on a deal that would allow for a complete dismissal of the charge. And in Kentucky the dismissal would have made him eligible for an expungement of the charge, completely erasing the charge from his record.

As the saying goes, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” So, if you get arrested or receive a citation, don’t be foolish. Call an experienced attorney to help you. The consequences of not doing so can be severe and long-lasting.

CATEGORIES: Criminal Law