Criminal History, Future Employment, and California Law

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Criminal history is not always a road block standing in the way of success. While it can be a challenge, it is possible to live a successful professional life after a conviction.

Today’s job applicants don’t always need to inform potential employees of their criminal history. However, there are situations in which disclosure occurs. When this happens, having a mark on your criminal record can negatively affect your job search. Even if you’ve completed your sentences and paid your debts to society, having a criminal record can complicate matters when searching for a job, especially if that job requires state certification or a background check.


Accessibility of Criminal Records

If you’ve been detained, arrested, or convicted anywhere in the state of California, the incident is recorded on your criminal record by the California Department of Justice. The reality of modern convenience is that employers can find out a lot about a person simply by performing a simple search on the internet. Data searches may reveal arrests, but not necessarily the outcome.

Criminal records don’t just include convictions: they include arrests that did not lead to conviction, and any other run-ins you may have had with the law. Criminal records span an entire life- including anything that occurred before you turned 18. If you’ve been arrested or convicted for a crime in another state, your criminal history will not be included in your California criminal record – each state maintains their own criminal records and the only criminal record that includes offenses from all states is the FBI’s.

Criminal History Disclosure

Whether or not you should disclose your criminal history to a potential employer is a complicated question. Though you are not legally required to do so by law, sometimes honesty is a good policy. It may not come up in job application, but it may be wise to disclose.

The law does provide protections when it comes to certain types of arrests or convictions. According to the California Code of Regulations, private employers face restrictions of questions. For example, they may not ask job applicants about arrests that:

  1. Did not lead to convictions,
  2. Expunged convictions,
  3. Juvenile sustained petitions,
  4. Juvenile arrests that have been sealed, and
  5. Arrests with successfully completed drug diversion.

A criminal defense attorney can help you go over your criminal history. He or she will help you decide what to disclose and what can remain private.


Even if you have an expunged criminal history, the conviction is “dismissed in the interest of justice.”

An expungement means you no longer face penalties and liabilities associated with the conviction. However, with certain crimes, you may be liable for additional penalties (ex: sex registration requirements).

Many people in the state of California apply for the expungement of criminal records. They do so in an effort to keep a conviction from ruining their careers. In many cases, this is a great idea. However, there are certain circumstances where people must disclose expunged convictions. If you are unsure whether you need to disclose a conviction, consult with a criminal defense attorney for advisement.

Unfortunately, even an expungement has limitations. According to the California Penal Code, even a person with an expungement must disclose a conviction if:

  1. They’re applying for public office, or
  2. Applying for licensure by any state or local agency, or
  3. Contracting with the California State Lottery.

Any individual applying for any of these must disclose their criminal history, with or without an expungement.

Juvenile and Drug Records

As long as juvenile arrests and convictions show as sealed, they are consequently inaccessible to most employers. It’s important to note that juvenile records are not automatically sealed on your 18th birthday; you must apply to have those records sealed.

Finally, you do not need to disclose all convictions. For example, a charge of nonviolent “personal use” drug crime may not need disclosure in the state of California. A successfully completed a drug diversion program allows you to decline disclosure to most potential employers.

Maximize Your Chances of Getting a Job

Though a criminal history can negatively impact employment, it is possible. Maximize your chances by doing a few things to help yourself:

  1. Be truthful on your job application:
    1. Be sure to provide clear explanations of the crime, if they’re favorable to you.
    2. Explain your rehabilitation efforts and express remorse or guilt for the crime, and/or
    3. Provide excellent personal or professional references from individuals with a clean criminal record.

With all this in mind, make sure to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. The California Defense attorneys at The Kavinoky Law Firm  are here to help. Call 1.800.No.Cuffs 24/7, 365 days a year.

Additionally, depending on your circumstances, you may wish to consider an expungement of your criminal record.

Brianna Wilkins
Brianna Wilkins