Many people who plead guilty to a misdemeanor in Texas brush off the incident as inconsequential. Misdemeanors are not punished as severely as felonies, and they tend to encompass behaviors that can be passed off as youthful indiscretion or simple irresponsibility, such as public intoxication, being a minor in possession of alcohol or tobacco, or simple assault.
If you are arrested for a misdemeanor, you may be tempted to plead guilty and avoid the expense of fighting the charge. You may even know someone who has been arrested and convicted: according to the Brennan Center for Justice, the U.S. now has the same number of people with criminal records as it does four-year college graduates.
This is not, however, a case of safety in numbers. Any criminal conviction can have major consequences on your future. In 2015, even Time warned against complacency with an article titled ‘A Misdemeanor Conviction Is Not a Big Deal, Right? Think Again.’ You should be aware of the potential impact of a conviction before you plead guilty or accept a plea agreement.
Here are five ways that your life can be affected.
- Reduced Job Prospects
Many employers these days run background checks and look for the presence of a criminal record before hiring new staff. While some companies will only deny applicants who have been convicted of certain offenses, such as violence, fraud, or theft, others will refuse to hire anyone with a criminal record, which can affect your career potential and earning ability.
Like many states, Texas has certain laws directing how your record may or may not be used against you. For example, an arrest and conviction that is over seven years old may not legally count against you for a job that is not safety-sensitive and pays less than $75,000 per year. This doesn’t mean that it won’t: an employer could simply state another reason for the denial.
- Denied College Applications
While not all undergraduate schools will discriminate against applicants who have been convicted of a minor offense, those with a misdemeanor on their record can still encounter obstacles to admission. You may be required to pay for a background check or complete extra paperwork. In addition, you may be denied federal student financial aid if you have drug-related offenses on your record.
- Limited Housing Prospects
The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from having a blanket policy of denying prospective tenants with a criminal record, but they can potentially reject those with a past that could represent a threat to other tenants or the property. Examples could include assault, theft, or vandalism.
- Problems with Licensing
A misdemeanor conviction could affect your professional license. Some professions require you to maintain high ethical standards: attorneys, doctors, nurses, teachers, and those who act as fiduciaries are good examples. You may be required to report your conviction to the professional licensing board and risk suspension or revocation of your license.
- You Could Be Deported
If you are a legal permanent resident of the United States but not yet a citizen, you could face removal proceedings if the misdemeanor is a more serious one. For example, a misdemeanor theft could be classified as a “crime of moral turpitude,” which can get you deported if it was your second such offense or you committed it during your first five years in the country.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
A misdemeanor offense is not to be taken lightly: it remains on your record for anyone to discover. This is why you should hire an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney to protect your interests and pursue a case dismissal.
Bobby Dale Barina is a skilled negotiator and aggressive trial lawyer who will fight to get the best possible resolution for your case and prevent your opportunities and freedom from being impacted by a mistake. If you have already been convicted of a misdemeanor, Attorney Barina can help you seek an expungement. Texas law allows job applicants to refrain from disclosing records which were expunged by court order, so this is one way to put an unfortunate incident behind you.
If you have been arrested for a misdemeanor, don’t delay. Contact Bobby Dale Barina at (254) 699-3755 or via the online form.