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A criminal record can keep you out of the workforce

You did well in high school and got into a great college. You worked hard and earned your degree. You did an unpaid internship along the way, getting your foot in the door with a local company, and then they gave you a job after graduation. Within a year, you already had your first promotion and a raise.

And then, you got arrested.

You had to spend some time behind bars, and you lost your job. Not only did they have to replace you, but the employee handbook said that a criminal conviction was immediate grounds for termination. You'd done everything right right up until that one mistake erased it all.

After getting out of jail, you tried to find a job, but suddenly no one wanted to take a chance and hire you. They did not care about the promise you showed. They didn't care about your experience or your grades in college. They just saw that you'd gone to jail — and they moved on to the next candidate.

Your future

Maybe you haven't gone through all of that yet, but you have gotten arrested. You're worried that the example above is exactly how your life is going to play out. Is that how it often happens?

It certainly can be. Statistics show that there are 70 million people in the United States with criminal records. There are millions of open jobs, but these people aren't getting picked up. That suggests that their records could be one of the factors that are keeping them out of the workforce.

Some people are trying to fight back against this type of employment exclusion. One man founded a tech startup to hire people with records, thus giving them a second shot at a successful career.

"The right thing to do is to give people second chances; I think most people can agree on that," he said in an interview. "But our value proposition is less that, and more that there are six million jobs in this country that are unfilled at any time. Companies lose money when they can't fill positions. We have applicants who are ready, willing, and eager to take on those positions."

That may be true, but it's clear that many if not most companies are not nearly as ready and willing to give ex-cons a job.

A conviction can be life-altering

One thing to consider is the real impact of a criminal conviction. Just an arrest often isn't enough to set this chain of events into motion. It could be a wrongful arrest, after all. You could be innocent. It just takes time to get through the process and show the truth.

A conviction, however, is what sticks on your record and upends your life. You need to know all of the defense options you have to protect your future.

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