Being accused of domestic violence is a serious matter that can have life-altering implications. In California, the consequences extend beyond legal penalties; they can also significantly impact your current job and future career prospects. Not only do you have to deal with the stigma of being simply accused of domestic violence (whether or not it actually happened), but a domestic violence arrest or conviction can also make it difficult to get hired for certain jobs, completely disqualify you from others, keep you from obtaining a professional license, or worse, cause any current professional license you hold to be suspended or revoked.
Fortunately, you’re not entirely helpless in this situation. You can take numerous steps to minimize the damage a domestic violence charge might have on your professional life. Let’s explore the specific repercussions that a domestic violence arrest or conviction could have on your career prospects and what you can do to improve your situation.
How Domestic Violence Charges Can Affect Your Job or Career
Bad news first: being arrested for or convicted of domestic violence in California can result in a wide range of complications regarding your finding or keeping gainful employment. Let’s take a look at just some of the potential issues you could face:
- Background Checks: Domestic violence arrests or convictions can appear on background checks conducted by employers, potentially deterring them from hiring you.
- Zero-Tolerance Policies: Certain industries, like healthcare, education, and childcare, have zero-tolerance policies towards domestic violence charges. An arrest or conviction could lead to immediate dismissal or bar you from future employment in these fields.
- Firearms Limitations: Since a domestic violence conviction means you cannot own or possess a firearm, you could face severe limitations or be disqualified from serving in the military or having a job in law enforcement.
- Professional Licensing: Some professions require licenses to practice, and in many cases, these licenses can be suspended or revoked by the licensing board for certain criminal convictions (including “crimes of moral turpitude” such as domestic violence). If you apply for a professional license with a domestic violence conviction on your record, that conviction may disqualify you.
- Legal Restrictions: In some cases, a domestic violence conviction can result in legal restrictions such as restraining orders that might affect your ability to perform certain jobs.
- Job Security: If you’re already employed, a domestic violence arrest or conviction could lead to job loss, especially if you cannot fulfill your duties due to court dates, jail time, or other legal obligations.
- Security Clearances: If your job requires security clearance, a domestic violence conviction could make you ineligible, leading to job loss or barring you from certain positions.
California’s Clean Slate Laws
While the situation may seem bleak regarding your employment prospects, there is hope in the long-term, thanks in part to the recent passing of California’s so-called “Clean Slate Laws” (AB 1076 and SB 731). Taken together, these laws require the automatic sealing of criminal records for many crimes within a specified amount of time, provided no additional arrests or convictions occur. Many domestic violence offenses may be eligible for sealing, meaning that you may eventually have your record sealed and essentially “start over” regarding employment opportunities. For misdemeanor domestic battery, for example, your arrest record is sealed immediately if no charges are filed or you’re acquitted. If you serve a sentence, the conviction falls off one year after your release. For felony offenses, the sealing time is generally 3-4 years after an arrest/conviction, and for qualifying felonies and misdemeanors with probation, your record is automatically sealed when you complete probation.
Note, however, that record sealing is not the same as expungement. The charges will not be completely erased from your record; certain government agencies and law enforcement may still have access to them. However, they will no longer appear on standard background checks conducted by employers, so it has the same effect as complete expungement, making it easier to obtain employment without the shadow of a domestic violence charge hanging over your head. Furthermore, it’s against the law for an employer to deny you employment over a crime that has been removed from your criminal record.
You should also know that certain violent crimes and all sex crimes are ineligible for automatic sealing. So if your domestic violence offense involved assault with a deadly weapon or sexual assault, for example, you would not be eligible under the Clean Slate Laws. These records could still affect your employment down the road.
Mitigating the Damage
Despite the severe implications a domestic violence arrest can have on your employment prospects, there are steps you can take to minimize the damage and find ways to be gainfully employed. Let’s look at some of your options now.
Defending Against the Charges
Your first line of defense in preventing domestic violence charges from staining your career is to avoid a conviction. Depending on the circumstances, a skilled criminal defense attorney can often help you get acquitted at trial or, in many cases, get the charges dismissed if you can show that the accusation was false or unwarranted. If you can avoid conviction, the charges will soon disappear from your record and improve your employment prospects.
Getting Charges/Penalties Reduced
If a conviction is all but inevitable, an attorney may be able to negotiate to get charges reduced or minimize penalties. For example, if you’re charged with felony domestic violence, an attorney may be able to get the charge reduced to a misdemeanor (possibly as part of a plea agreement) so the Clean Slate Laws apply sooner and your record is cleared more quickly. They may also be able to negotiate for probation instead of jail/prison, so your record could be sealed upon completion of probation.
If you’re not eligible for automatic record sealing–or even if you are and not enough time has passed, you can still petition in many cases to have arrest and conviction records sealed from your criminal record so it doesn’t affect your employment. An experienced attorney can discuss with you whether you’re eligible to make such a petition and your chances of success.
Take Steps Toward Healing/Rehabilitation
Many employers view proactive steps toward rehabilitation positively. It shows remorse, responsibility, and the commitment to change. If you’re required to attend Batterer’s Intervention, be diligent in completing the process; also consider getting therapy or counseling to help avoid future issues with domestic violence.
Petition for Certificate of Rehabilitation
A Certificate of Rehabilitation is a court declaration stating that you are rehabilitated. It can help in getting professional licenses and improve your employment prospects. It also automatically puts you in the running for a Governor’s Pardon.
If you’re currently facing domestic violence charges, a robust defense is your best first step to protecting your freedom and your long-term employment prospects. For compassionate legal representation for domestic violence charges in Los Angeles, contact our offices today.