USAO/DOJ background check - past habitual drug use

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USAO/DOJ background check - past habitual drug use

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 13, 2015 11:38 pm

First things first: this is a completely prospective question. I'm a 1L, and although I would love to work as an AUSA at some point in the future, this question is not in connection with a current application. Basically, I want to know if my goal of working in a USAO is even feasible given my background. I'm asking now because it could potentially affect some decisions in the next few years (whether or not to clerk, what firms to target for OCI, etc.).

I've tried searching through the TLS forums, but I seriously doubt this situation has come up before on this site. Here goes:
- I was a habitual drug user in college. Mostly marijuana, but some other drugs too.
- I've been arrested for a DWI. There was no conviction--just probation and then the charges were dropped. I had the arrest expunged about a year or two after it happened, but I'm sure it would still come up in a background check.
- After the DWI, I voluntarily checked in to a rehab for substance abuse. No idea if that would come up or if it has to be disclosed.

On the flip side, I cleaned up my act and have been completely sober since the arrest. Plus, this all happened years ago. By the time I would be applying to a full-time position, the arrest (and all prior drug use) will be over 10 years old. My explanation/addendum to the background check would basically say that I got a wake up call and I seized the opportunity to turn my life around.

So, bottom line: am I an auto-ding? Or is it possible that they would look past all the red flags because of the time lapse and the explanation?

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Re: USAO/DOJ background check - past habitual drug use

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Mar 13, 2015 11:50 pm

The DOJ background check only asks for drug use in the past 7 years, so your past drug use is unlikely to be a problem as long as there has been no drug use since then. The bigger issue is your DUI and the treatment for the substance abuse. If this was also around 10 years ago and you've been clean since, you will likely be able to mitigate it and still pass a public trust background check. But it's not a 100% sure thing and your record since then needs to be spotless. You are not an auto-ding though. There's actually forums out there for federal employees that might have people who are better able to answer this question, like Federal Soup.

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XxSpyKEx
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Re: USAO/DOJ background check - past habitual drug use

Postby XxSpyKEx » Sat Mar 14, 2015 12:44 pm

Anonymous User wrote:- I was a habitual drug user in college. Mostly marijuana, but some other drugs too.


Were there any arrests or anything like that related this? I'm not sure the USAO would even know about this unless you voluntarily disclose it. Even if they do a hair test, it wouldn't show up with 10 years between the last time you smoked and now.


Anonymous User wrote:- I've been arrested for a DWI. There was no conviction--just probation and then the charges were dropped. I had the arrest expunged about a year or two after it happened, but I'm sure it would still come up in a background check.
- After the DWI, I voluntarily checked in to a rehab for substance abuse. No idea if that would come up or if it has to be disclosed.


If it was truly "expunged," and not merely sealed, there wouldn't be any way of finding it (unless it's lurking around on the internet or something like that). Expungement means that the records of the arrest, charges, etc. were destroyed, so a background check wouldn't pull that up, which is kind of the point of the expungement. Technically, not even the clerk's office should be able to tell that you were ever arrested or charged. I don't see how they would know about your voluntary check-in for rehab.

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Emma.
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Re: USAO/DOJ background check - past habitual drug use

Postby Emma. » Sat Mar 14, 2015 12:55 pm

Pretty sure there's a question on the form about whether you've ever been treated for a substance abuse issue. No idea whether answering yes is disqualifying.

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Re: USAO/DOJ background check - past habitual drug use

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Mar 14, 2015 1:07 pm

Just to make clear what the background check actually asks, this is the police record part (I bolded a few bits):
For this section report information regardless of whether the record in your case has been sealed, expunged, or otherwise stricken from the court record, or the charge was dismissed. You need not report convictions under the Federal Controlled Substances Act for which the court issued an expungement order under the authority of 21 U.S.C. 844 or 18 U.S.C. 3607.

Have any of the following happened? (If 'Yes' you will be asked to provide details for each offense that pertains to the actions that are identified below.)
• In the past seven (7) years have you been issued a summons, citation, or ticket to appear in court in a criminal proceeding against you? (Do not check if all the citations involved traffic infractions where the fine was less than $300 and did not include alcohol or drugs)
• In the past seven (7) years have you been arrested by any police officer, sheriff, marshal or any other type of law enforcement official?
• In the past seven (7) years have you been charged, convicted, or sentenced of a crime in any court? (Include all qualifying charges, convictions or sentences in any Federal, state, local, military, or non-U.S. court, even if previously listed on this form).
• In the past seven (7) years have you been or are you currently on probation or parole?
• Are you currently on trial or awaiting a trial on criminal charges?

Police Record (EVER)

Other than those offenses already listed, have you EVER had the following happen to you?
• Have you EVER been convicted in any court of the United States of a crime, sentenced to imprisonment for a term exceeding 1 year for that crime, and incarcerated as a result of that sentence for not less than 1 year? (Include all qualifying convictions in Federal, state, local, or military court, even if previously listed on this form)
• Have you EVER been charged with any felony offense? (Include those under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and non-military/civilian felony offenses)
• Have you EVER been convicted of an offense involving domestic violence or a crime of violence (such as battery or assault) against your child, dependent, cohabitant, spouse, former spouse, or someone with whom you share a child in common?
• Have you EVER been charged with an offense involving firearms or explosives?
Have you EVER been charged with an offense involving alcohol or drugs?


About drugs, it asks:
In the last seven (7) years, have you illegally used any drugs or controlled substances? Use of a drug or controlled substance includes injecting, snorting, inhaling, swallowing, experimenting with or otherwise consuming any drug or controlled substance.

In the last seven (7) years, have you been involved in the illegal purchase, manufacture, cultivation, trafficking, production, transfer, shipping, receiving, handling or sale of any drug or controlled substance?

Have you EVER illegally used or otherwise been involved with a drug or controlled substance while possessing a security clearance other than previously listed?

Have you EVER illegally used or otherwise been involved with a drug or controlled substance while employed as a law enforcement officer, prosecutor, or courtroom official; or while in a position directly and immediately affecting the public safety other than previously listed?

In the last seven (7) years have you intentionally engaged in the misuse of prescription drugs, regardless of whether or not the drugs were prescribed for you or someone else?

Have you EVER been ordered, advised, or asked to seek counseling or treatment as a result of your illegal use of drugs or controlled substances?

Have you EVER voluntarily sought counseling or treatment as a result of your use of a drug or controlled substance?


I agree with anon above that your past doesn't make you an auto ding, but your history will raise red flags and that it depends on what you've done since then.

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Re: USAO/DOJ background check - past habitual drug use

Postby XxSpyKEx » Sat Mar 14, 2015 1:21 pm

That's a pretty brutal questionnaire, but led me wondering what happens if OP fails to disclose the expunged records, prior drug usage, and voluntary drug treatment? It sounds like this is all on the honor system to the extent that it doesn't show up on a criminal background check (or drug screening). It wouldn't surprise me if people failed to disclose stuff that there's no way of finding out about anyways. But, yeah, if answered honestly, I imagine it would raise some red flags re: OP's application (although, I doubt it would be an auto ding given the 10 year gap between all of this relatively minor stuff and now).

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Re: USAO/DOJ background check - past habitual drug use

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Mar 14, 2015 1:27 pm

XxSpyKEx wrote:That's a pretty brutal questionnaire, but led me wondering what happens if OP fails to disclose the expunged records, prior drug usage, and voluntary drug treatment? It sounds like this is all on the honor system to the extent that it doesn't show up on a criminal background check (or drug screening). It wouldn't surprise me if people failed to disclose stuff that there's no way of finding out about anyways. But, yeah, if answered honestly, I imagine it would raise some red flags re: OP's application (although, I doubt it would be an auto ding given the 10 year gap between all of this relatively minor stuff and now).

I'm sure there are some people who do fail to disclose stuff. Personally, I wouldn't be willing to start off my relationship with the feds by lying on the background check, and I'd never advise someone to leave stuff off, because I take being on the honor system seriously. But I'm sure there are plenty of people who disagree and obviously people have to make the choice they're comfortable with.

OP, I'm pretty sure voluntarily seeking treatment for a problem and not having any issues since then isn't going to be held against you, since it was a long time ago and getting treatment is a GOOD thing. But if you had more recent issues (which it doesn't sound like you do), then obviously stuff further back takes on different significance.

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Re: USAO/DOJ background check - past habitual drug use

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 18, 2015 6:37 pm

Someone mentioned a hair test. Do they drug test?

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swampman
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Re: USAO/DOJ background check - past habitual drug use

Postby swampman » Wed Mar 18, 2015 6:46 pm

Don't worry about it UNLESS you have had substance abuse problems since then. They will talk to your friends, neighbors, coworkers going back years. I been interviewed several times for friends getting clearances, and they will ask a lot of questions about whether you show any signs of alcohol or substance abuse. If anyone answers yes, combined with the past rehab stint, that's bad news. If you still drink, do so responsibly, especially once law school starts.

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Re: USAO/DOJ background check - past habitual drug use

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Mar 18, 2015 6:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Someone mentioned a hair test. Do they drug test?

Depends. For a summer gig, most people have said that they weren't tested (I wasn't), but at least one person has said that they were tested (I think it was DOJ but not sure if it was a USAO). It's a urine test.

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Re: USAO/DOJ background check - past habitual drug use

Postby kimbar » Tue Aug 18, 2015 1:16 am

I’m pretty sure that thy will be running a background check for DOJ, but I don’t know about USAO. You don’t need to worry if you haven’t used after rehab. They WILL check and ask around with your friends and family.

In my op you should reveal everything, even about the rehab. mod edit: link removed

Also, 10 years is a pretty long time, but still need to be a bit more elaborate with your explanation.

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Nekrowizard
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Re: USAO/DOJ background check - past habitual drug use

Postby Nekrowizard » Tue Aug 18, 2015 1:22 am

I suspect the expunged record would still show up. My state at least makes it explicit that when they expunge something that federal agencies can still access the whole thing.

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Re: USAO/DOJ background check - past habitual drug use

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 18, 2015 7:45 am

This is very interesting. I'm considering applying at some point in the future. What kind of questions do they ask your references (especially regarding past drug use)? Also, I heard investigators will ask references for "secondary references" - like to name someone else to talk to. Does anyone know specifics? Do they ask for multiple people as secondary references? Etc. Thank you very much in advance.

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Re: USAO/DOJ background check - past habitual drug use

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 18, 2015 11:16 am

Anonymous User wrote:This is very interesting. I'm considering applying at some point in the future. What kind of questions do they ask your references (especially regarding past drug use)? Also, I heard investigators will ask references for "secondary references" - like to name someone else to talk to. Does anyone know specifics? Do they ask for multiple people as secondary references? Etc. Thank you very much in advance.

I didn't have the experience of anyone asking my references for references - maybe DOD would do this (the investigator I had also did DOD checks and he was saying how much tougher they were), but the DOJ stuff asks you for the name of someone who knew you at every address you've had in the last 7 (?) years, 3 people as personal references, a reference from law school, plus the names of all your employers and all your landlords, and none of those are supposed to overlap (I'm probably forgetting some people, too), so it seems that would be plenty of people to talk to without drumming up more.

I'm pretty sure with regard to drug use they flat out ask if the person has ever know you to do drugs, but probably about other things that might signal drug use (erratic behavior/missing work/appearance). One of my friends said they asked if she thought I was a dependable, loyal American and whether or not I owned a yacht or an airplane or had been to China in between my studies, so I don't think the questions are especially daunting.




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