Are You Sure You Don't Have an Arrest Record?

An Arrest Record: A Cautionary Tale

Whenever you are taken you into custody by the police, an arrest record is created.  It is a simple fact. And, just like an unwanted tattoo, an arrest record doesn’t go away unless you do something to remove it. Take the case of Ben, a college student.

Ben got a summer internship with a financial services company.  As is routine in this industry, Ben underwent a fingerprint criminal background check. His prints were sent to the FBI.

Ben wasn’t worried about the background check. The previous year Ben expunged his two misdemeanor cases.  Nevertheless, the FBI reported that Ben had been arrested for a hate crime when he was 16. Ben was asked to explain.

Ben couldn’t understand why the arrest record hadn’t been expunged with his other cases. Because Ben never went to court after his arrest, there was no court record. The only way an attorney would have known to expunge Ben’s arrest record was if Ben had mentioned it.

Because Ben was a minor at the time, the police officer had the option of giving him a “station adjustment.” A station adjustment occurs when a police officer, instead of referring the case to the State’s Attorney for prosecution, elects to handle the matter informally. The juvenile is taken to the station, given a lecture, and released to his parents’ custody. This is what happened to Ben.

Similarly, when an adult is taken into custody but later released without being charged, there is still an arrest record. It does not matter that the police concluded that the person had not committed a crime. Once fingerprinted and photographed, an arrest record is generated.

A Happy Ending

Ben was lucky. He didn’t lose his internship. But the Ben’s story raises an important question: what would have happened if Ben had in the running for a job.

Today, many job offers are contingent on “passing” a criminal background check. Would Ben have passed the background check? It’s hard to say.

Fortunately for Ben, it is a moot point. Ben took care of the problem. He expunged his arrest record. If this story sounds familiar, you need to do something about it.