We all know the direct consequences of having a public criminal record. The most severe consequence is the damage to your personal and professional reputation. In an age where the intimate details of a person's life can be found within a matter of seconds on the Internet, a public record is truly public.
Direct consequences of a criminal record include difficulty - or even the inability - to find employment. Even if your charges were dismissed, the record still exists unless you expunge.
One of the most common myths in the criminal justice system is that if a charge is dismissed (no action, no info, no file, or nolle prosequi) then it is automatically off of your record. That is completely false. An arrest - even the issuance of a Promise To Appear (PTA) - will appear on your criminal record and will be detected by a criminal background check.
Withholds of adjudication as well are a part of your record unless you seal (provided the charge is an eligible offense).
So even if the charge is dismissed or if you plead guilty but are not convicted (withhold), you still have a public record that can be found in a matter of seconds on the Internet.
But what other collateral consequences may exist as a result of having a criminal record?
You could be denied a scholarship at a public or private university.
You could be denied a rental agreement.
You could be denied student loan funds.
You may face difficulties traveling or boarding airplaces (No-Fly List).
You may face difficulties entering and exiting the United States, as well as other countries (possible detention by customs authorities in the U.S. or abroad).
You could be denied a professional license or have your current professional license revoked (mortgage broker, attorney, medical, contractor, etc...).
Routine traffic stops may be more invasive or prolonged (officer can run your criminal background from his patrol car's in-board computer).
The list is endless. However, the most common reason why people choose to seal or expunge their records is because of employment. Getting a job is harder than ever. Employers have about 7 candidates to choose from for each available job. You'd better believe that a criminal record will likely result in your being denied a job.
Eric Matheny is an expungement attorney who represents clients throughout the State of Florida regarding sealing or expungement applications and petitions.