Many people make mistakes in life, and end up paying for those mistakes many times over. If you’ve been unfortunate enough to have any kind of criminal conviction your past, you know that this record can stick with you for years after you’ve paid your debt to society, particularly in the form of barriers to employment.
A conviction is one thing, but what about an arrest? What about that period between being arrested, being released on bail (perhaps via a bail bond) and your opportunity to present your case at a trial?
There are two answers to this. The first relates to the ideal world defined by the written regulations associated with employment and earning a living. In that world, there are restrictions on what information a potential employer may use when deciding to employ you or not, and in most cases, the existence of an arrest record is not sufficient on its own to deny someone an otherwise available employment opportunity.
The second answer is what happens in the real world. In this world, background information is made available to prospective employers, and a decision to not hire someone due to an arrest record may simply be obscured by other reasons not to proceed.
Keep the Job You Have
For anyone who has been arrested, but who has been granted pretrial release, is obviously wise to maintain a job that they already have. If you’ve been thinking about looking for a new job and you find yourself in this position, it is clear that you now have some reason to delay for now that job hunting, not only because you have more important things to concern yourself with (i.e. preparing yourself for a trial), but because the arrest record without an associated finding of no-conviction is only likely to work against you.
Should you volunteer information about your arrest and impending trial to your current employer? This depends on a lot of factors. Some workplaces have rules and policies that require you to report such things, and the requirements may depend very much on how relevant the charges are to your role and duties. For individuals with security clearances or professional licenses, the requirement to report may exist regardless of the nature of the charge Finally, the relationship you have with your supervisor, or the existence of a culture of gossip may lead you to decide that reporting the situation is best for you in contrast to it being discovered in other ways.
Honesty and Transparency Are Probably Your Best Tactic
If you’re looking for work while on pretrial release, you have to face some hard realities. The pragmatic approach is to treat the job search the same as if you have a conviction on your record. Doing so means expecting that information on your arrest is going to be discovered and considered as part of your application, and as such, your best approach is most likely one of honesty and transparency, providing as much relevant contextual information as possible, and managing expectations around your prospects.
The Job Market Matters
As is the case for all jobseekers, the nature of the local and national job market may have more influence on your ability to gain employment than any information about your past or current legal circumstances. When there is lower unemployment, all jobseekers have greater opportunities.
Choose the Right Opportunities
There are some job types and roles that are more likely to allow for criminal record, and by extension, may provide greater opportunities for those on pretrial release.
The Bottom Line
An encounter with the law should never be enough to exclude someone from work opportunities, but jobseekers need to be smart and realistic about their prospects when they look for work. Employers have access to a great deal of information about jobseekers through background check tools, and while such information may well count against you in your pursuit of employment, it’s usually better to be up front with the information than wait for it to be discovered.