Criminal Background Question

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Paraflam
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Criminal Background Question

Postby Paraflam » Wed Feb 23, 2011 5:48 pm

I'm in my sophomore year of undergrad applying for a summer law program for undergraduate students at a law school in a different state, which basically provides prospective law students an inside look into law school and the legal profession.

While in the process of applying, however, I ran into this "Yes/No" question at the end of the application:
Have you ever been arrested, detained or restrained, taken into custody, accused formally or informally of a violation of law or ordinance? You should disclose each instance even though the charges may have been dismissed, you were acquitted or adjudication was withheld, or a conviction was reversed, set aside or vacated.
If you answered "yes", please attach a full statement of relevant facts for each incident.


As embarrassing as it is to disclose, I was charged with misdemeanor shoplifting (<$100) last year, given a small fine and 1 year of supervision from which I was successfully discharged after fulfillment last month. I have no criminal background prior or since.

My question is whether to check "Yes", explain what happened, and hope for the best, or to check "No" and hope that, in the event that a background check of some type is performed, that nothing will come up on my name since I was never convicted and successfully fulfilled supervision, clearing my record. I realize this would be dishonest, but with several hundred applicants for the program, I figure an easy sort for the admissions office would be to trash the applicants who checked "Yes". Or, if I should disclose what happened, how would I go about wording it?

I'm sure that I'm going to get flamed by people questioning my morals, but in all honesty I really want to get into this program, and this is the only part of my application holding me back. Thanks in advance!

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northwood
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby northwood » Wed Feb 23, 2011 5:50 pm

disclose it. you got caught shoplifting and had to pay a fine and be supervised.

cartercl
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby cartercl » Wed Feb 23, 2011 5:53 pm

Have you ever been arrested, detained or restrained, taken into custody, accused formally or informally of a violation of law or ordinance? You should disclose each instance even though the charges may have been dismissed, you were acquitted or adjudication was withheld, or a conviction was reversed, set aside or vacated.


I think this question is pretty straightforward. Yes, you must disclose it. You answer no to this question and you'll spend 3 years in law school for nothing.

Also: You simply provide the facts as they happened in your response to the question. Use an addendum to address any lessons you learned from this experience.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Feb 23, 2011 6:15 pm

What leads you to believe that you were "never convicted" ? If you were charged with a criminal offense, paid a fine & did a year of supervised release, then you were convicted & received a somewhat serious sentence for a first time misdemeanor.

My best advice is to disclose fully & honestly without falsely claiming that you were never convicted. Most likely you will be denied entrance into the program because of your offense & , possibly, because shoplifting raises concerns about other emotional issues that you may be facing in life.

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Paraflam
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby Paraflam » Wed Feb 23, 2011 6:22 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:What leads you to believe that you were "never convicted" ? If you were charged with a criminal offense, paid a fine & did a year of supervised release, then you were convicted & received a somewhat serious sentence for a first time misdemeanor.

My best advice is to disclose fully & honestly without falsely claiming that you were never convicted. Most likely you will be denied entrance into the program because of your offense & , possibly, because shoplifting raises concerns about other emotional issues that you may be facing in life.


I am led to believe that I was not convicted because in court, the judge said to me, "understand, this is not a conviction unless you fail to successfully complete one year of judicial supervision." Reason enough?

CanadianWolf
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Feb 23, 2011 6:28 pm

No. If it was not a conviction, then the court had no authority to fine you or place you under a one-year supervision. Your conviction may be sealed or expunged or removed under a first-time offender provision, but you were convicted despite what you report as the judge's statement.

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Paraflam
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby Paraflam » Wed Feb 23, 2011 6:35 pm

I find it hard to believe that the judge would explicitly state, "This is not a conviction" if it in fact was a conviction. The record that I plead guilty is not expunged, since expungement can only occur two years after the end of supervision, provided a clean criminal record during that time. It would have turned into a conviction on the date of fulfillment had I incurred any offenses during my supervision, but like I said, I hadn't. Perhaps your facts are incorrect.

cartercl
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby cartercl » Wed Feb 23, 2011 6:36 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:No. If it was not a conviction, then the court had no authority to fine you or place you under a one-year supervision. Your conviction may be sealed or expunged or removed under a first-time offender provision, but you were convicted despite what you report as the judge's statement.


He's one of those people. No use in wasting our breath here. Let him try...

cartercl
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby cartercl » Wed Feb 23, 2011 6:37 pm

Paraflam wrote:I find it hard to believe that the judge would explicitly state, "This is not a conviction" if it in fact was a conviction. The record that I plead guilty is not expunged, since expungement can only occur two years after the end of supervision, provided a clean criminal record during that time. It would have turned into a conviction on the date of fulfillment had I incurred any offenses during my supervision, but like I said, I hadn't. Perhaps your facts are incorrect.


What's your point? Conviction or no conviction, you're still obligated to disclose the issue per the wording of the question. You clearly do not want to do that and would rather lie instead, despite the advice you have received, so just do it. I guarantee you you won't pass the bar though.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Feb 23, 2011 6:43 pm

OP: Did the court ask you or your attorney "How do you plead?" If so, what was your response ?

P.S. The best advice is to consult a local attorney who can research this matter & explain what occurred. Sounds like a "first-time offender" program. Some "diversion" programs allow one to plead "nolo" or "not guilty" & proceed with counseling (often used in domestic violence type cases), but these alternative means of resolution vary by jurisdiction.

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Paraflam
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby Paraflam » Wed Feb 23, 2011 6:49 pm

My point was that you were wrong in saying that a conviction occurred. I do not clearly want to lie, my question is simply asking whether or not anything would turn up under my name, given the circumstances, in the event a background check was performed. I'm not familiar with how my response to this question relates to the Bar Exam, but this summer program is not connected to my law school attendance in any way, it's simply a 4 week program to familiarize students considering law school with what it's like.

Edit: I'm sorry, I thought the person who wrote the post I was responding to was CanadianWolf. Formatting is a little jumbled up on my phone.

In response to your last post though, Canadian, I verbally pleaded guilty. I wasn't made aware of any provisions that came into play, but I did hear the judge also inform other defendants who were offered supervision that they, too, were not being issued a conviction.
Last edited by Paraflam on Wed Feb 23, 2011 6:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

deliriousxix
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby deliriousxix » Wed Feb 23, 2011 6:54 pm

Paraflam wrote:
CanadianWolf wrote:What leads you to believe that you were "never convicted" ? If you were charged with a criminal offense, paid a fine & did a year of supervised release, then you were convicted & received a somewhat serious sentence for a first time misdemeanor.

My best advice is to disclose fully & honestly without falsely claiming that you were never convicted. Most likely you will be denied entrance into the program because of your offense & , possibly, because shoplifting raises concerns about other emotional issues that you may be facing in life.


I am led to believe that I was not convicted because in court, the judge said to me, "understand, this is not a conviction unless you fail to successfully complete one year of judicial supervision." Reason enough?


Deferred Adjudication?

CanadianWolf
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Feb 23, 2011 6:57 pm

We understand, but it is difficult to offer meaningful advice without knowing the specific legal authority for fining you & placing you under a one-year supervision. This is why you need to consult with your attorney or a local attorney to explain what happened.
State bar character & fitness reviews tend to be quite thorough & may discover your response regarding this incident.
Typically, deferred adjudication requires a plea of either "no contest" (nolo contendre) or "not guilty", but it sounds as if the judge may have refused to accept the proffered plea of "guilty" and used a deferred adjudication--bail type technique to order "program costs" & "supervision" prior to trial (any subsequent offense would make the defendant ineligible for "deferred adjudication"). Just my best guess. If you had a lawyer, then you deserve a full explanation from him or her. If not, consult with a local attorney or ask a court clerk.
Last edited by CanadianWolf on Wed Feb 23, 2011 7:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.

sarahh
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby sarahh » Wed Feb 23, 2011 6:59 pm

Paraflam wrote:My point was that you were wrong in saying that a conviction occurred. I do not clearly want to lie, my question is simply asking whether or not anything would turn up under my name, given the circumstances, in the event a background check was performed. I'm not familiar with how my response to this question relates to the Bar Exam, but this summer program is not connected to my law school attendance in any way, it's simply a 4 week program to familiarize students considering law school with what it's like.


One of the most common reasons people fail the character and fitness portion of getting admitted to the bar is lying. They can do a very thorough background check - you can't count on them not finding out about the shoplifting. They also have access to your law school applications. They may not get the application to this program, but why even risk is? Whether or not there was a conviction, this is a minor charge. There are plently of people that get into law schools with minor charges.

too old for this sh*
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby too old for this sh* » Wed Feb 23, 2011 7:05 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:What leads you to believe that you were "never convicted" ? If you were charged with a criminal offense, paid a fine & did a year of supervised release, then you were convicted & received a somewhat serious sentence for a first time misdemeanor.


Not if there was a deferred adjudication disposition of the case. As an example, in Texas, you enter the plea, are placed on a term of supervision, BUT instead of entering a judgment of guilt, the court defers making that finding. Upon a successful completion of the term, the Court dismisses the case. The dismissal is NOT an expunction though and there ARE records of most such cases unless steps are taken to expunge the case from the record.

My best advice is to disclose fully & honestly without falsely claiming that you were never convicted. Most likely you will be denied entrance into the program because of your offense & , possibly, because shoplifting raises concerns about other emotional issues that you may be facing in life.


Concur with disclosure- even though there may not be a conviction, the question specifically asked about arrests. And an arrest without conviction is still an arrest...will not offer an opinion about acceptance but doubt that one can equate shoplifting with concerns about other emotional issues absent ANY other indicia of such.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Feb 23, 2011 7:07 pm

The OP pled "guilty" so the judge must have refused to accept his plea unless this jurisdiction allows guilty pleas for deferred adjudication.

too old for this sh*
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby too old for this sh* » Wed Feb 23, 2011 7:13 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:The OP pled "guilty" so the judge must have refused to accept his plea unless this jurisdiction allows guilty pleas for deferred adjudication.


Many jurisdictions require the plea to be entered. The Court just does not render a finding of guilt. As an example, Texas CCP 42.15 (5) specifically outlines that "...after receiving a plea of guilty or plea of nolo contendre, hearing the evidence and finding that it substantiates the defendant's guilt, defer further proeedings WITHOUT ENTERING AN ADJUDICATION OF GUILT, and place the defendant on community supervision." [Emphasis added]

There are even some felonies where deferred is the ONLY option available if you want supervision without pen time...

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Paraflam
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby Paraflam » Wed Feb 23, 2011 7:19 pm

too old for this sh* wrote:Not if there was a deferred adjudication disposition of the case. As an example, in Texas, you enter the plea, are placed on a term of supervision, BUT instead of entering a judgment of guilt, the court defers making that finding. Upon a successful completion of the term, the Court dismisses the case. The dismissal is NOT an expunction though and there ARE records of most such cases unless steps are taken to expunge the case from the record.

Concur with disclosure- even though there may not be a conviction, the question specifically asked about arrests. And an arrest without conviction is still an arrest...will not offer an opinion about acceptance but doubt that one can equate shoplifting with concerns about other emotional issues absent ANY other indicia of such.


In that case, would it be too sheisty to disclose the arrest, but go on to say that I wasn't convicted of anything?

Also felt Canadian's comment about shoplifting equating to emotional issues was a bit of a stretch, but chose to ignore it for irrelevance.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Feb 23, 2011 7:26 pm

Obviously deferred adjudication is jurisdiction-specific. If one pleads "guilty" in certain jurisdictions, the court does not have the "deferred adjudication" option.
Shoplifting is quite often associated with emotional issues in one's life--or you just may be dishonest in nature. Regardless, if your offense occurred in a jurisdiction other than Texas, then you should consult a local attorney as you clearly do not understand what happened & its consequences sufficiently to address C&F type questions.

chrisokc
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby chrisokc » Wed Feb 23, 2011 7:41 pm

If you find yourself questioning whether something is technically an arrest or technically a conviction, you should generally go ahead and disclose it. It's much better to disclose something you could have gotten away with not disclosing than to not disclose something that you should have. The real point of these questions on applications is to determine whether you're honest, not whether you've ever had a misdemeanor.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Feb 23, 2011 7:44 pm

But some applications to law schools & to state bars require the applicant to know the difference, although disclosure also is an honesty & integrity check.

P.S. Also need to know the difference for employment applications & employment background checks.
Last edited by CanadianWolf on Wed Feb 23, 2011 7:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

cartercl
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby cartercl » Wed Feb 23, 2011 7:47 pm

Paraflam wrote:
In that case, would it be too sheisty to disclose the arrest, but go on to say that I wasn't convicted of anything?

Also felt Canadian's comment about shoplifting equating to emotional issues was a bit of a stretch, but chose to ignore it for irrelevance.


Yes. Disclose the facts. "I was arrested for shoplifting. I went to court. I entered a plea of guilty. Judge placed me on supervision for a year and I paid a fine. I completed supervision. Charges were dismissed (or whatever). End of story"

That's it.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Feb 23, 2011 7:53 pm

Plus you need to include the dates of arrest & conviction or hearing.

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Paraflam
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby Paraflam » Wed Feb 23, 2011 7:57 pm

I was thinking something like, "I was arrested for shoplifting but the charges were dropped without conviction." Or something to that effect. No?

CanadianWolf
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Re: Criminal Background Question

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:00 pm

Unfortunately without knowing the specific facts of your case & the specific laws & adjudication, "dropped" may not be an accurate term. Did you have an attorney ? If so, consult him or her. For specific wording, you really need to consult with an attorney practicing in that particular jurisdiction.

P.S. FYI emotional issues are often mitigating factors.
Last edited by CanadianWolf on Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.




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