Good news. Theft is an offense for which the remedy of expungement is available in Minnesota. Expungement is the process by which an individual can have a certain entry removed from his or her criminal record. For many people, a theft charge is accompanied by consequences that are disproportionate to the actual behavior. For example, in Minnesota, the level of offense (misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, felony) is, in part, determined by the value of the item stolen or by the amount of money that is wrongfully taken. The lowest threshold in this regard is $500.00. That means you can be charged with misdemeanor theft for taking a $400.00 cell phone from the electronics store, and you can be charged with misdemeanor theft for taking a candy bar from the gas station. While both of these offenses are illegal and morally wrong, many would agree that the thirty-year-old man or woman should not be punished for the remainder of his or her lifetime for making a dumb decision and taking a candy bar when they were eighteen years old.
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Unfortunately, criminal background checks don’t go into extensive detail about the nature of the offense. Your potential employer doesn’t know what the allegation was. Instead, their curiosity is allowed to run wild. Maybe they ask you. Maybe they don’t. Even if they do, maybe they still decide it’s just not worth the risk to hire someone with a theft on their record. After all, who wants to be the guy who hires someone with a theft on their record on the off chance that the employer ends up looking foolish when that employee steals something from the company?
This appears to be an extreme example. After all, will any employer really care when you disclose to them that you took a candy bar over ten years ago? This should be something that is easy to explain when you get the chance to sit down face-to-face with your potential employer. Maybe the two of you will even chuckle over the initial concern.
Unfortunately, that’s not an opportunity many of us get in the era of twenty-first century, digital automation. Gone are the days when you could simply walk into a business and ask for an application which would shortly be accompanied by an interview. Applicants in today’s job market are typically required to complete an online application. What happens if an applicant is asked a question along the line of “have you ever been convicted of theft or any other crime of dishonesty?” The applicant, having no desire to be untruthful, simply answers “yes.” This doesn’t necessarily prompt the program’s algorithm to open a dialogue box in which the applicant can explain. Instead, the applicant may be redirected to a page explaining that their application has already been rejected. There is no chance to explain. This is exactly the reason why some folks choose to expunge a theft from their criminal record.
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Similarly, many companies retain the services of third-party companies who are then tasked with conducting comprehensive background checks and determining whether an individual meets the company’s hiring standards. This is where things get increasingly problematic for applicants with criminal records. These third-party background check companies are not simply data harvesters who compile and deliver the information to the potential employer. Instead, the employer often gives the third-party company a set of guidelines and asks them to simply determine whether the applicant fits within those guidelines. They may instruct the company to deem certain applicants disqualified from employment. Many people choose to seek to expunge a theft from their record in MN because the following examples are frequently used in this regard:
- Individuals convicted of felonies
- Individuals convicted of violent crimes
- Individuals convicted of domestic assault
- Individuals convicted of a crime in last three years
- Individuals convicted of crimes of dishonesty (i.e. theft, perjury, false info, etc.)
As you can see, that theft conviction — regardless of severity — would result in an automatic disqualification from employment with this company. What happens next is simple; the potential employer receives a letter from the third-party background check company indicating that the applicant does not meet the standards for employment. That correspondence then gets forwarded on to the applicant. That the end of this process.
Applicants will be told they have the opportunity to appeal the decision, but their appeal is with the background check company and is limited to whether the information is accurate. The appeal process isn’t an opportunity for an applicant to explain why something is present on his or her criminal record. Instead, the appeal process is designed to protect individuals who, due to a clerical error, have an entry on their record that should not be attributed to them.
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This issue is compounded if an individual has made a career out of working in direct care or nursing occupations. The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) is required by law to “disqualify” individuals who have been convicted of any crime listed in the relevant statute. Most of the disqualifying offenses are obvious and include some level of violence. However, to many people’s surprise, theft is an offense that carries a seven year disqualification. Expungement doesn’t automatically restore your ability to work in direct care, but it can be an important step forward. If you have received a DHS disqualification as a result of a theft charge, please contact the DHS appeal attorneys at Leverson Budke, P.A. Similarly, if you have are currently facing theft charges and have concerns that it may impact your employment in these fields, contact a Minnesota criminal defense lawyer at Leverson Budke, P.A.
This all seems pretty gloom. So what can you do if you’ve been convicted of theft? You can contact an attorney and begin the expungement process. The attorneys at Leverson Budke, P.A. are unique amongst criminal defense lawyers as they focus a significant amount of time and attention to expungement and other post-conviction actions. For a free consultation, and to learn whether you’re eligible to seek an expungement, contact the Minnesota expungement attorneys at Leverson Budke, P.A. today. We look forward to hearing from you.