DoJ suitability check

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DoJ suitability check

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Nov 21, 2014 1:01 pm

I just got offered a volunteer summer position at the DoJ. One problem - I've smoked weed in the last year for about 2 weekends at a music festival. Is this going to be a total bar on my eligibility, or is there a case-by-case determination?

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Re: DoJ suitability check

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Nov 21, 2014 1:17 pm

It's case-by-case and should not likely be a problem. There will be questions targeted at it on your background form, which you should answer "yes" to be honest. The HR person will likely ask you to write a letter describing the circumstances. Describe the circumstances, express regret, and explain why you would avoid such conduct in the future. I did a volunteer internship admitted basically the same conduct on my background form and was fine. Marijuana is kind of weird considering it's legal status in many states, so I imagine they're somewhat more lenient with it. Regardless, though, it's illegal under federal law and federal attorneys should follow the law.

Also, I have had friends in the same situation who likewise admitted and explained. For the future, you might want to quit smoking since if you want to be hired through the Honors Program you'll have to complete the same form.

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Re: DoJ suitability check

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Nov 21, 2014 5:13 pm

Great news, thanks!

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Re: DoJ suitability check

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 22, 2014 10:42 am

I assume the same approach (disclose and explain) would apply to those seeking full time FedGov employment (AUSA or DOJ) as a lateral hire, but does anyone have experience with that situation?

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Re: DoJ suitability check

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 22, 2014 10:46 am

I don't get why people disclose this stuff. They're not going to find out.

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Re: DoJ suitability check

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 22, 2014 12:02 pm

Anonymous User wrote:It's case-by-case and should not likely be a problem. . . .


I agree that it's case-by-case, but whether or not it's a problem will depend heavily on which part of DOJ you're talking about. Some are more forgiving than others. In the course of the many suitability checks I underwent for DOJ, some just asked the question and I got the impression that had I had limited, casual marijuana use in my past it would be no problem. It's clear some others have had that be the case, as well. However, for other components, not only was it pretty clear that any drug use could be disqualifying, but I was also drug-tested prior to being allowed to start.

So, definitely case-by-case, but also very component-dependent. If you're talking about DEA or BOP, you may have a problem. If you're talking Civil Tax, maybe not so much.

Anonymous User wrote:I assume the same approach (disclose and explain) would apply to those seeking full time FedGov employment (AUSA or DOJ) as a lateral hire, but does anyone have experience with that situation?


I'm about to go through a check for full-time employment myself, so take this with a grain of salt, but I think it's always better to disclose. Not disclosing is perjury. So while it's true you might never get caught, if you do get caught, the consequences could be quite severe.

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Re: DoJ suitability check

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 22, 2014 12:21 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I assume the same approach (disclose and explain) would apply to those seeking full time FedGov employment (AUSA or DOJ) as a lateral hire, but does anyone have experience with that situation?

Not quite a lateral hire, but I was hired as an AUSA after clerking for 2 years, and was told that post-graduation (or post-bar? Maybe it was post-bar) drug use would be an absolute deal breaker. So I can only assume that earlier drug use would not be an auto ding and could be explained.

As for why disclose - personally, I agree with the above person that disclosing is required and even if they're never going to find out, I just don't want to start my career with an agency by lying/disobeying/not fulfilling their requirements. But that's just me, and it's easy for me to say because I'm a totally boring person who's never used drugs. I did disclose some information about mental health which, as with the drugs, I'm pretty sure they never would have found out without disclosure.

I do think that in most cases the drug use isn't going to disqualify you, so why not disclose? And if you have significant enough drug use to disqualify you, maybe you really aren't the best person to be a federal prosecutor/work in federal law enforcement type positions (so BOP, not civil tax).

But this is just how I personally handled the decision. People have to decide for themselves how to handle this and I get that others will disagree.

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Re: DoJ suitability check

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 22, 2014 1:24 pm

Besides the ethical reasons to disclose, which are probably the most important reasons to do so, it's very risky not to disclose. For any DOJ component, they do a very thorough background check including interviews with many past employers, personal references and references for each address at which you've lived. Think about what would happen if you didn't disclose casual marijuana use and someone in your past disclosed it for you? That would be a deal-breaker.

For obvious reasons, I can see it being more of an issue for the DEA but in general, casual marijuana use in the past seems to not be an issue. More recent use would be and they do drug test you. I'm pretty sure every component drug tests, whether for an internship or full-time employment.

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Re: DoJ suitability check

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 22, 2014 1:34 pm

I was not drug-tested for my internship with an USAO, but I do know some people have been drug-tested for summer DOJ positions with other components. (I was drug-tested for my permanent AUSA gig.)

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Re: DoJ suitability check

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 23, 2014 1:39 am

I wonder if hard drug use, several years removed (like five years) would be a problem for an AUSA gig if properly disclosed?

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Re: DoJ suitability check

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 23, 2014 1:39 am

I clerked for DOJ in DC this past summer. IMO you should be as honest as possible. I had some skeletons in my closet I thought would make me not get approved, but after disclosing and writing an honest statement I was fine. Please disclose, the risk of them finding out later on is high and this security check is saved in your permanent file and can be reviewed years after you work there.

That being said, I was in the ENRD component and there was no drug testing (hippies).

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Re: DoJ suitability check

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 23, 2014 1:49 pm

Oh yeah, disclosure is definitely the way to go. Explaining perjury on your bar application sounds like a real drag.

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Re: DoJ suitability check

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 23, 2014 7:28 pm

Wait - I've been searching the forums on this same issue and I thought the consensus was that any illegal drug use within the past year was generally an auto ding? Is that not the case? Yale's website says the same thing: http://www.law.yale.edu/studentlife/cdo ... arance.htm ("it appears to us that any illegal drug use, within one year of application, will disqualify an applicant")

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Re: DoJ suitability check

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 23, 2014 8:02 pm

I'm one of the original posters above that didn't have a problem. I looked back, and I disclosed marijuana use four times over the past 7 years, the most recent time being December 2012. This was for a Summer 2014 DOJ internship, so it was not within one year. The OP should probably seek additional confirmation from someone who reported drug use within one year considering that Yale information. Sorry to give you information that wasn't exactly on point.

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Re: DoJ suitability check

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 23, 2014 8:08 pm

a few questions

1. I used to see a shrink to get adderall-so I had a legal prescription. I thought it was counterproductive, and then I just stopped with the shrink/adderall. The diagnosis was probably adhd and/or depression. This was many years (over 5) ago.

2. What if I'm not in touch with the guy who i let live in my apartment during college? How does DOJ go about seeking "references" regarding living in an apartment building for a few years, again several years ago?

3. How exactly does this information come out?

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Re: DoJ suitability check

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 23, 2014 8:26 pm

Anonymous User wrote:a few questions

1. I used to see a shrink to get adderall-so I had a legal prescription. I thought it was counterproductive, and then I just stopped with the shrink/adderall. The diagnosis was probably adhd and/or depression. This was many years (over 5) ago.

2. What if I'm not in touch with the guy who i let live in my apartment during college? How does DOJ go about seeking "references" regarding living in an apartment building for a few years, again several years ago?

3. How exactly does this information come out?


You have to complete a background information form (SF85) after you receive an offer. For positions considered "public trust" positions, including DOJ internship/attorney postions, it asks about past drug use and mental health issues. The questions about past-residences are part of the standard form and you just have to list the name and contact info of someone who knew you at the time. It could be a friend, landlord or whoever. I believe those persons have to be different than anyone you listed as a personal reference in another part of the form.

On the mental health issue, it shouldn't be an issue. The question that might bring it up reads:

In the last 7 years, have you consulted with a mental health professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor,
etc.) or have you consulted with another health care provider about a mental health related condition? You do
not have to answer "Yes" if you were only involved in marital, grief, or family counseling not related to violence by
you.


Then asks to provide dates and the contact info for the treating professional. I had some significant mental health issues a couple years prior to law school, serious depression which led to hospitalization. I disclosed them and had to get letters from the doctors describing my treatment, diagnosis and prognosis at the time. I also submitted a letter from a current doctor. For something like you described, you probably wouldn't even have to do that much but wanted to put out there for someone else who might have an issue.

You can find the forms (SF85 and SF85p) here:

http://www.opm.gov/forms/standard-forms/

Also, on "how it comes out" they conduct a background investigation based off the information you provide. I understand that for internships it's pretty cursory -- they didn't call any of my personal references as far as I know -- but for full time employment is very thorough.

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Re: DoJ suitability check

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 23, 2014 8:42 pm

Yeah, the mental health thing is the question above, and I had to get a letter from the 2 doctors who treated me, saying that my diagnosis/prognosis in no way made me unfit for working in a sensitive position. You sometimes have to badger your doctor - I had to fill out the background check twice, for a student internship and then for the permanent position, and the first time, the doctors wrote the letter with no problem; the second time, one of the doctors started pulling the "this is confidential information and I don't have to provide it and I'm not writing a letter" thing, despite me being the patient and giving permission to release the info. (When I pointed out she'd written the letter with no problems 18 months before, she got over it.) It didn't make the slightest bit of difference, I just had to give them the info.

As for references for apartments: generally, retired FBI people do the background checks, and they'll go to the place where you used to live and ask your landlord/neighbors about you. However, they're also not dumb, and realize that sometimes there isn't anyone to contact. When I was checked out for the permanent position, I was living in an apartment in the city where I was clerking, and the background check guy knew the complex and said that the management didn't let them on the premises to talk to your neighbors. So they didn't check that part out. (I think they confirmed with management that I lived there, though.)

Also, my understanding is that for summer/student positions, they don't actually go through the full background check (because it takes a really long time and is really expensive). You have to fill out the form, and if you have a prima facie pass, you're good; if there are any red flags, they investigate the red flags.

(This is not me saying you can blow off the summer/student background check, though.)

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Re: DoJ suitability check

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 23, 2014 8:49 pm

well, im not planning on going federal for quite a while. i want the possibility of lateralling later in my career. That would put all the bad stuff about 10 or more years in the past. No problem?

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Re: DoJ suitability check

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 23, 2014 9:02 pm

Anonymous User wrote:well, im not planning on going federal for quite a while. i want the possibility of lateralling later in my career. That would put all the bad stuff about 10 or more years in the past. No problem?


I believe all of the C&F type questions address only the past 7 years. So just quit your weekend crack habit 7 years before you plan to make the jump and you're golden.

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Re: DoJ suitability check

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Mar 12, 2015 12:38 pm

What about stuff on medical records?

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Re: DoJ suitability check

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Mar 12, 2015 12:58 pm

Anonymous User wrote:What about stuff on medical records?

What about them? I don't believe they ever see your medical records. If you've had mental health treatment within the 7 years you need to get a letter from your provider saying that your treatment/diagnosis won't affect your ability to do the job, but they don't see your medical records. You might have to disclose the fact of treatment for something but you don't hand over the actual records (AFAIK).




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