Misdemeanors and Employment: What You Need to Know

Getting a job with a misdemeanor on your record can be challenging but is unlikely to prevent employment fully. While any criminal conviction makes finding work more difficult, misdemeanors are considered less serious crimes, and many employers may still hire candidates with minor offenses in their past. 

However, certain types of misdemeanors could negatively impact your job search or ability to get hired for particular jobs.

Understanding how misdemeanors may affect your background check report and employment prospects can help you navigate applications and interviews. There are also legal remedies like expungement that may help remove charges from your criminal record.

What is Considered a Misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is a minor criminal offense, distinguished from more serious felony crimes. Misdemeanors are typically punishable by up to 1 year in jail, probation, community service, or fines.

Some common misdemeanor offenses include:

  • DUI and DWAI
  • Simple assault and battery
  • Petty theft
  • Possession of small amounts of marijuana
  • Trespassing
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Minor traffic violations

Misdemeanors are categorized into different classes that determine potential sentences if convicted. For example, Class 1 misdemeanors allow up to 1 year jail time, while Class 3 misdemeanors can result in up to 6 months in jail.

How Misdemeanors Show Up on Background Checks

Most employers conduct background checks on job applicants to screen for any criminal histories or activity. This typically involves a few key components:

  • Criminal record search – Reviews county and state records for any convictions, both misdemeanors and felonies.
  • Credit reports – Provides financial and personal information like bankruptcies, late payments, addresses, and civil court records.
  • Employment verification – Confirm your previous job titles, employment dates, income, and reasons for leaving.
  • Reference checks – Contact professional or personal references provided in your application.
  • Driving records – Checks motor vehicle records for traffic violations and license status.

Misdemeanors will show up on a criminal background report if you were charged, convicted, or pled guilty. The specific offense will be listed along with the date, location, and final outcome.

Background checks typically go back 7-10 years for criminal and driving histories. Older misdemeanors may still appear in some cases, depending on the severity of the crime.

How Might a Misdemeanor Conviction Affect Employment Prospects?

While misdemeanors are considered minor crimes, they can still negatively impact your employment prospects in a few key ways here are some ways misdemeanors that prevent employment:

Difficulty Passing Background Screens

Many employers immediately disqualify applicants who fail the background check. According to a National Institute of Justice study, over 90% of employers conduct criminal background checks on candidates. The same study found that a criminal history reduced the likelihood of a job callback or offer by 50%.

Ineligibility for Certain Jobs

Some jobs prohibit applicants with certain types of misdemeanors. For example, financial positions may exclude those with theft, fraud, or money laundering offenses. Childcare and teaching roles often reject candidates with violent or sexual crime misdemeanors. Healthcare jobs can mandate clean criminal and drug histories.

Reflecting Poor Judgment

Even minor misdemeanors may indicate questionable decision-making, lack of responsibility, or volatility. Employers want to minimize liability and often view applicants with any criminal past as riskier hires.

Future Advancement Obstacles

While a prior misdemeanor may not prevent you from getting an entry-level role, it could limit internal promotion opportunities where background checks are rerun. Certain high-level corporate jobs may require spotless records.

How Different Misdemeanor Offenses Impact Hiring

Not all misdemeanors necessarily carry the same weight when it comes to employment. Hiring managers likely view minor traffic tickets differently than theft or drug possession charges. Some misdemeanors of particular concern include:

  • Theft – Indicates dishonesty and raises concerns about handling money or valuables. Makes jobs with financial access or responsibility difficult.

  • Drug charges – May flag possible substance abuse issues. It can prevent healthcare or public safety jobs requiring drug testing.

  • DUI – Implies reckless behavior and liability risks for driving positions, especially concerning vehicle operation or transportation roles.

  • Assault – Suggests potential violence or aggression issues. It can hinder jobs working directly with people.

  • Sex crimes – Poses risks for positions involving minors or vulnerable individuals. Bars many childcare, teaching, or counseling jobs.

While any criminal record presents obstacles, minor misdemeanors like disorderly conduct may be less concerning versus charges involving violence, dishonesty, or negligence.

Strategies for Getting a Job with a Misdemeanor

Though challenging, getting hired with a misdemeanor is certainly possible. Here are some tips to help your job search:

Don’t Hide Your Past

Always disclose your criminal record when directly asked on job applications. Otherwise, it will look like deception if uncovered in the background check. Honesty displays integrity.

Be Upfront in Interviews

Don’t wait for employers to find your misdemeanor in the background check. Bring it up yourself and explain the incident, taking responsibility for your actions. Focus on what you learned.

Get Expungement When Possible

You may petition for misdemeanors to be expunged from your record after a certain period of time. This can help employment prospects tremendously.

Apply to Jobs More Likely to Overlook Records

Look for roles in construction, warehousing, restaurants, or startups where background screens may be less stringent. Avoid positions requiring extensive checks and bonding.

Highlight Your Skills and Experience

Impress employers with your qualifications and convey why you’re an asset despite your record. Provide strong references who can vouch for your abilities.

Consulting a Criminal Defense Law Firm Can Help Your Job Search

If you have a prior misdemeanor and are struggling to find employment, speaking with a qualified criminal defense attorney can help. 

They also represent those facing current misdemeanor charges to help secure the most favorable outcomes. This avoids future limitations on your work prospects. Don’t let a conviction hamper your career. Schedule a free case evaluation today to discuss your situation.