Criminal Convictions May Not Hinder College Applicants Much Longer

In almost every job application, every licensing request, and seemingly every application for anything, is the question of whether the applicant has ever been convicted of a crime. The question seemingly has value; a potential employer or licensing agency wants to know if someone has a background of which they should be aware.

There is a continuing belief that convictions that occur in someone’s past should not continue to haunt his or her throughout his or her life because as time goes on, the correlation between a conviction for certain crimes and someone’s moral fitness becomes more and more attenuated. That is coupled with the realization that the inability to get work or advance someone’s career leads to higher rates of recidivism.

Colleges May Not be Able to Ask Conviction Question

That is why the Maryland General Assembly is considering doing away with this question when it comes to applications to get into college The proposed bill would ban the question entirely from applications by private or public colleges.

Many colleges opposed the legislation. That may be understandable as in many cases, admitting someone with a criminal record can lead to civil liability. Many colleges rely on the question to determine whether someone poses a potential risk to other students.

From a victim’s standpoint, it may be difficult to argue that a college breached its duty to safeguard students, when it does not even have the legal ability to screen potential students for criminal records.

As a result, the bill, which has passed the Assembly and is awaiting the governor’s signature, does have a provision allowing colleges to conduct background checks in general, including using third-party companies that provide background checks that include criminal records. They can reject candidates based on the result of those checks, but the rejections cannot be based on an applicant’s criminal history alone.

Bill Has Supporters

Proponents of the bill note that in many cases, those with criminal records may be dissuaded from even trying to apply whereas with the ban, they may be more inclined to try to obtain a degree or higher education. Applicants who may have convictions for crimes that have nothing to do with violence, or who may have been convicted when the applicant was a juvenile, should not be deterred from seeking to advance themselves, according to the sponsors of the legislation.

The law has some precedent. In 2014, the City of Baltimore passed a law restricting employers from asking about criminal records, until the point that a conditional job offer is made.

Still, there is some criticism that the law over-criminalizes the hiring process by making asking the question a crime in itself, and involves excess government intervention, allowing the EEOC to investigate companies that use criminal background questions in the application process.

Of course, other avenues, such as expungement of criminal records, also exist for those looking to make a fresh start after a criminal conviction.

Convictions can cause serious harm to your professional future. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your case if you are charged with a crime or arrested.