Most people ask this question out of concern for what the offense may mean when it comes to acquiring or keeping a job. With that, you must understand that how a charge impacts your record generally falls into four categories.
- There are those cases in which the charge is dismissed or the person is found not guilty. In those instances, the person has no convictions and theoretically no record. However, it should be noted that a record showing you were charged will still exist unless it is expunged. Of course, a dismissal or finding of not guilty is the outcome everyone wants, but it should come as little surprise that is also the outcome which is the hardest to attain.
- The second outcome is a summary disposition. That is a circumstance where a misdemeanor (or in rare instances a felony) is pled down to a summary. Summary dispositions can be appealing because they are much less likely to carry weight with an employer and are much more easily expunged (more information on expungements). That means although you may have a minor record in the short term (five years), you will undoubtedly have the opportunity to have no record in the long term. That is very important.
- The third outcome is a misdemeanor conviction. Once a person reaches this stage there are more practical concerns to consider because a misdemeanor often has to be disclosed to an employer and can be difficult, and in some instances, impossible to expunge. (again, refer to expungements for more specifics on your options when attempting to expunge a misdemeanor offense from your record). Fortunately, the law has softened recently, allowing for some minor misdemeanors to be sealed (after ten years). The hope is that softening by the legislature will continue to expand.
- The fourth outcome is a felony conviction. This outcome has significant and often life-long ramifications. Under those circumstances, a plea or conviction to an offense of that nature, in addition to the risk of incarceration, can often be life-altering. As far as a record, you’ll have one, it’ll give many employers pause if you are not outright ineligible, and the likely only way to get it off your record is a Governor’s Pardon.
In light of all of these factors, the knowledge and experience your attorney has weighing and navigating these dynamics can often make all the difference.