How Expunging A Criminal Record Can Help You In Business
As a business owner, you know that every opportunity must be seized, every sale must be maximized, and every expense must be justified. You work tirelessly to build your business and to reduce cost when possible. But, your past mistakes may be hindering your advancement in ways you both are and aren’t aware of. A reckless or irresponsible act from years ago that resulted in a criminal conviction can hinder the development of your business, hurt your professional reputation, and hold you back from achieving your goals. However, in Arizona and many other states, you may be able to have your previous criminal conviction expunged from the record, giving you a clean slate and allowing your business to grow. This article will discuss what expungement is, the process of expungement in the State of Arizona, and explore a few of the benefits that expunging your criminal record can have for your business. Importantly, this article deals only with expungement of prior criminal convictions, if you have been charged with a crime you should seek an experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney to handle your case.
What is Expungement?
Expungement is a process where a criminal conviction is erased from a person’s public and criminal record and their civil rights restored. In their model standards, The American Bar Association states that “the legislature [of each state] should establish a process by which a convicted person may obtain an order relieving that person of all collateral sanctions imposed [by a conviction].” The ABA recognizes that many people burdened with criminal records face a lifetime of struggle, with difficulty finding jobs, housing, or assistance. Thus, they recommend that every state create a process by which a person convicted of a crime can have their record cleared.
The legislature of Arizona agreed with the ABA and created a process for expungement which they call a “set aside” scheme. Although the name is different, it operates in essentially the same way with the finding of guilt being removed and the case being dismissed. This means that people who have their criminal records set aside will have the conviction removed from public record, their civil rights restored, and can truthfully say they were not convicted of a crime. For most crimes in Arizona, first time offenders can have their records set aside if they complete probation and pay any fines or restitution ordered in their case. Depending on the circumstances, this process may even happen automatically. For specific crimes such as crimes resulting in serious physical injury, crimes involving a deadly weapon, sex crimes, or crimes where the victim was a minor expungement may not be available. People with multiple convictions can still have their records cleared, however the process can be more difficult.
Benefits to your Business
Beyond the benefits discussed above, expungement can have major, positive implications for your business. Many people do not realize just how common background checks are. Below are just a few of the areas where having your record expunged can make a difference.
- Credit and Loans
– When approving loans for companies, banks often require the signature of an owner who can guarantee the line of credit. This is especially common for new businesses that have yet to develop their own credit rating. Having a criminal record can disqualify you for a loan or increase your interest rate. This is because banks lend based on risk, and convicted criminals are viewed as higher risk entities. Thus, having a criminal record can limit your ability to borrow money, open lines of credit, or build the credit of your company. Having your record expunged means that when banks or other lenders perform a public record check on you, they won’t see a criminal history.
- Leasing and Renting Space
– In today’s market landlords are very selective about who they lease or rent their property to. After the 2007 collapse of the housing market, demand for rental space skyrocketed. This meant there was a surplus of renters and landlords could screen candidates more thoroughly. This trend has continued today, and landlords commonly perform credit and background checks on prospective tenants. While growing your business, you will likely need space. Whether its retail, warehousing, industrial, or office space, the odds are good that you will need to rent or lease a location for your business. Having a criminal record can mean rejection of your application, a higher security deposit, or higher rent. While denying your application based solely on your criminal record may be discrimination, landlords are allowed to consider you criminal record as a factor in their decision. Having your record expunged means that you can secure the space you need for your business to grow.
- Security Clearance
– Depending on your area of business, you and your employees may be required to submit to a background check to obtain clearance to work. Many government contracts require a background check for security reasons and there is a growing trend of private companies screening who they do business with. This means that your company may miss out on a major contract because your criminal record kept you from obtaining the required clearance. Expunging your record makes it so that legally the conviction never happened. By statute, the court dismisses the criminal complaint in your case when expungement is granted.
- Admissibility to Professional and Trade Organizations
– Many industries have trade or professional organizations that they invite members of the business community to be members of. Lawyers have the American Bar Association, real estate agents have the National Association of Realtors, and welders have the American Welding Society. In every field there are groups that work together to advance the area for everyone. As your business grows, you may be invited to join a professional organization, or you may apply for membership to help build relations within your community. However, many organizations are private entities and maintain strict membership requirements. As a part of applying for membership you may be asked to submit to a background check or public records search. Or, you may be asked to disclose any criminal convictions on your record. By having your record expunged you can truthfully answer that you have never been convicted of a crime.
These are just a few examples of how having your criminal record expunged can help grow your business. There are countless other ways that are not listed here. Perhaps the most important way is the security and peace of mind having your record expunged will give you. Once your conviction is set aside, you will be able to honestly say that you have no criminal record. This peace of mind can give you the confidence to push your company to the next level. You don’t have to sit back and allow yourself to be defined by the past; expungement is a valuable tool which can help you and your business grow.