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Criminal Defense From A Former Prosecutor

Court ruling expands the definition of convictions

If a person in California has been taken into custody in the past seven years, it may show up in a background check. If the person was convicted of a crime, it may show up in a background check regardless of how long ago it happened. According to a decision made by the Seventh Circuit, a conviction occurs at the federal level whenever a person pleads guilty to a crime.

This is true even if a case is later deferred or dismissed at the state level. Therefore, a person who takes part in a diversionary program could have a conviction on his or her record for the purposes of the Fair Credit Reporting Act , FCRA. The case that led to the ruling was Aldaco v. Rentgrow, and it involved a plaintiff who had been charged with battery two decades ago.

After completing a supervision program, the charge was dismissed, and there was no conviction on her record. However, because the non-conviction disposition appeared on a background check, she was unable to get an apartment. In addition to the FCRA, other laws say that a non-conviction disposition qualifies as a conviction if a person enters a guilty plea. To fix this issue, it may be possible to either revise the FCRA or eliminate the need for a person to plead guilty in diversion cases.

Pleading guilty to a criminal charge may have many long-term consequences as it could show up in a background check indefinitely. This may make it difficult to get housing, find work or gain access to assistance programs. An attorney may be able to explain these and other potential consequences before a person agrees to a plea deal. In some cases, a charge may be expunged from a defendant's record.

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