The reputation that comes with a felony conviction can be hard to come back from and cost people who are highly qualified to lose out on opportunities just because their reputation has taken a hit. Some are stopped in their tracks simply by the thought of “how could I get a job with a felony conviction?” Or, “there are no high paying jobs for felons.” The truth is, even with all of the unfair and unnecessary barriers to employment for those impacted by the criminal justice system, there are high paying jobs available for those with a felony conviction.
This blog suggests a few ideas that will add to your reputation and give you some resume builder (some while offering community service value, which is a resume builder all by itself). These reputation builders are not a replacement for training, education or experience. They are ideas to give people an edge who are finding themselves bared from a job with a felony conviction.
The key to building up your reputation is to become as credentialed as possible in areas that require some sort of vetting. For obvious reasons, this can be difficult and take time after a felony conviction. That being said, the work is worth it! Following through with some of these ideas are achievements that will stay with you the rest of your life and set you on a path of making your reputation amazing.
I will provide some useful examples of how anyone can take steps to bolster their image in the community, but I would like to preface it with four things: (1) none of these things are easy. (2) Each state has their own requirements, but with will power, in most cases you can find an exception if you don’t fall squarely within the guidelines. (3) None of this happen quickly. This is true because (a) governments generally move at a snail’s pace, and (b) most of these things will require that some amount of time passes between your release (or conviction) and the date of applying for the credential. The more amount of time that has passed, the better. Afterall, a long period of time without a criminal conviction is a sure reputation builder all on its own. (4) For most of these credentials you will need to have information surrounding your offense handy, so it is wise to collect the following documents and keep them somewhere safe:
(a) any police reports regarding your conviction,
(b) absolute discharge from the state department of corrections,
(c) court documentation proving that you have satisfied all monetary obligations with the court; and,
(d) court documentation proving discharge of probation (if applicable).
Expunge Or Set Aside The Conviction The Court Has Entered Against You.
Expungement is a legal mechanism that is available in some states which allows for individuals who have been convicted of a felony to have their criminal conviction essentially erased from the public view. The details on the way this works varies from state to state. If expungement is available to you, do it as soon as legally possible. (See my blog post on expungement in Arizona).
Unfortunately, here in Arizona, law makers have decided that people convicted of a crime should be stained with a criminal record the rest of their lives no matter how hard they work at earning a second chance. Given this, there is still the availability to have your conviction of guilt “set aside.” To have the court grant a set aside is to essentially have the court acknowledge that you have become reformed and that they are willing to set aside the judgement of guilt that they ordered against you. It is a formality and like expungement in most other states, it is not available for convictions of certain crimes.
While set asides do not go far enough, there is no downside to petitioning the court to have it done. If it is available to you, it is highly recommended that you take advantage of this step toward repairing your reputation. Also keep in mind, criminal justice advocates are working our tails off to try to bring expungement to Arizona and we aren’t giving up. So stay tuned!
Have Your Civil Rights And/or Right To Possess A Firearm Restored.
When a person is convicted of a felony certain civil rights are forfeited. This includes a person’s Second Amendment constitutional right to possess a firearm is forfeited. These are rights that are lost but often times can be restored. Working as an attorney in the field of criminal defense, I can say that a lot of people are surprised to learn that having their civil rights restored can do more than just give them the right to put a check mark on a ballot. For instance, in Arizona it allows a person to collect signatures for a petition and can qualify a person to become a notary public (another credential discussed below). No matter which state you are in, petitioning the court to for expungement, set aside, restoration of civil rights or the right to possess a firearm can be costly and time consuming. If you don’t have the time for it, a criminal defense lawyer can be hired to take care of everything for you.
Put In An Application For A Fingerprint Clearance Card.
Many states offer a fingerprint security clearance card as a form of security clearance for specific employment or volunteer positions. Oftentimes, this application process has a rule that bars individuals who have been convicted of a felony from successfully obtaining clearance. However, as is the case with most things, there are often exceptions to the rule. Using Arizona as an example, if you have been convicted of a felony at any point in your past, you will likely be denied for a fingerprint clearance card. However, there is a process available called the Good Cause Exception which is offered by the Arizona Board of Fingerprinting.
The Good Cause Exception serves as an appeals process for those who are denied a fingerprint clearance card. The Good Cause Exception in Arizona has a high rate of approval for those who apply. Also, besides the benefit of obtaining a credential that bolsters your reputation, there are added benefits of having a fingerprint clearance card such as being eligible to chaperone you child’s classroom field-trips. Obtaining a fingerprint clearance card for a person previously convicted of a crime is not necessarily out of reach and looks great on a resume.
Become A Notary Public In Your State.
A notary public is responsible for notarizing documents which are important enough to have the requirement that an appointee from the Secretary of State witness and authorize the signature on the document. Becoming a notary public is a fantastic way to strengthen your reputation. Think about it, becoming a notary public means that you have met the requirements to be appointed by the Secretary of State to be entrusted to ensure that no fraud occurs when signing important documentation and to swear individual’s into office through a sworn affirmation. This is a big responsibility to be trusted with.
Requirements to become a notary public vary from state to state. In Arizona, there is a requirement that you have not been convicted of a felony—but again—there is an exception to this rule. The exception in Arizona is that you have had your civil rights restored. However, there is a catch all which gives the Secretary of State the discretion to deny an application based upon the nature of the convicted offense. An applicant will be required to provide specific documentation about the offense including police reports and court documentation proving that court requirements have been satisfied. You should always be prepared to explain your story and how it has had a positive impact in thrusting you into becoming a productive and contributing member of society.
Apply To Be Appointed To Boards And Commissions In Your City, State Or County.
The state government is the highest level of government in any given state. Each form of government below that is a political subdivision of any given state. Generally speaking, there are counties, municipalities and districts within each state. Examples of municipalities are cities and towns. Examples of districts are school districts, water districts and other utility districts. Within these political subdivisions, board members and other appointed positions are often vacant. Oftentimes, these vacancies are filled by appointment by an elected official. Appointments are considered by elected officials through an application process that can usually be found on the website of any given political subdivision.
Securing an appointment to serve on a board or commission is not only a great way to give back to your community and have a say in a cause that you are passionate about, but it is also a great way to build your reputation. While the application process is drastically different from place to place, all of the required documentation (such as resumes, letters of recommendation and other qualifying documentation) are great tools to have readily available for someone who is working hard on restoring their reputation.
A criminal conviction can have drastically negative impacts on a person’s reputation. That being said, we all make mistakes. Despite the overwhelming barriers to bouncing back from a criminal conviction, there are steps that you can take to rebuilding your reputation in the community. If you have been convicted of a crime and have questions about your specific situation, you can contact me at our office (480) 363-0090 or through the Contact Me page on this site.