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"Arrested" vs. "Charged" vs. "Convicted" Need clarification. Texas

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  • "Arrested" vs. "Charged" vs. "Convicted" Need clarification. Texas

    Hello all. Will be as brief as possible.

    Had a situation in late 05, health and human services told me they had found a discrepancy on my app. I had failed to report a part time job I was holding down while attending school, and the state had overpaid my family in food stamps.

    I retained an attorney, and that attorney told me it could be handled outside of the formal legal system, and no charges would ever be filed. I simply needed to repay the amount overpaid to me. I agreed. This attorney apparently later forgot about it when it came time to complete the affair, and told the investigator that I was no longer her client.

    I didn't learn about all of this until around a year later. Pulled over for a routine traffic stop, and the DPS officer tells me I have a warrant out for "tampering with a government document."

    I get processed, get out with my new attorney, and resolve the issue. I repaid the state, they dismissed the tampering charge, and instead cited me with "failure to maintain valid state inspection". I think I paid a $200 fine for the ticket, if memory serves me correctly. No probation, no deferred adjudication. I have never sat before a judge, before, during, or after this incident. I have not signed anything regarding the final disposition of the case. I have gone to the JP office where it was handled, and got a paper copy of the disposition; the only thing showing there is the ticket for inspection sticker.

    I am woefully ignorant of the workings of our legal system. Also, being in the job market makes it necessary for me to be able to completely and honestly answer questions about this incident when it comes down to background checks. So, my questions are as follows:

    1: Was I ever officially "charged" with anything? My attorney says that I was not (something about the fact that there was never a grand jury?), but I don't understand how I can be arrested without being charged.

    2: What is the proper way to disclose the disposition? Do I say that the charge was dismissed, or is this inaccurate? Do I say the charge was reduced? Do I say that there was a plea bargain? And these questions also beget the first (i.e., was there ever an actual "charge"?).

    3: Apparently, the "arresting charge" was a possible felony offense. In light of the final disposition of the case, what is the proper way to explain this? Many people will ask "Have you ever been convicted of, or entered deferred adjudication for, any felony offense?" - I can honestly answer this one "no", correct?

    4: Because there was not a conviction on the "arresting charge" am I eligible to have the arrest record expunged?

    Thank you in advance. To all those knowledgeable and helpful souls on this forum: I have read a lot on these forums, and see that you deal with a lot of BS. Thank you for taking the time to help out another reformed dirtbag.

  • #2
    My very first post on this site...

    ...will be a comment rather than advice.

    I would think your answers to "arrested," "charged," etc. questions on job applications would depend on how the questions are worded. I have seen apps that simply ask, "Have you ever been convicted of a crime other than minor traffic offenses?"

    The U.S. Navy application for enlistment was more specific ('way back when I was a recruiter.) It asked, "Have you ever been arrested, charged, or convicted of any felony, or misdemeanor other than minor traffic violations?" Pretty specific, and hard to evade.

    I'm wondering...wouldn't your attorney be willing to put his opinion regarding these terms, as they relate to a job app, in writing? That way you would at least have a document backing any answers you might give to a prospective employer, an answer that might later be perceived as false or misleading.

    Last point: If I were you, and in this position...I might pay a service a few bucks to run a police agency check on myself and see what pops up. This might save you some embarrassment later. If the police officer transported you to jail for for that outstanding warrant, you were indeed "arrested." The charge was later resolved, I believe you said, but I THINK you would have to say you were arrested. A plea bargain, with restitution, counts as a guilty plea and conviction, contrary to what many think.

    I hope this gives you something to think about next time you see that question on a job application. Good luck.


    • #3
      As far as my attorney goes, I have washed my hands of him. He has proven himself inadequate, and has given me very little help and guidance.

      Actually, my employment application does not even ask about criminal history, but it is standard practice for me to be properly vetted before being put under contract. So, any time an applicant has something that they know is going to show up, it is prudent to address it forthrightly when submitting the application.

      My record with the Texas DPS shows one arrest with no conviction. However, in the career field that I am entering, the background check will be run through the FBI, and all relevant facts will be examined.

      I have no intention of trying to conceal any part of the situation. My desire is to be able to provide a statement up front that is accurate and thorough while still presenting myself in as positive a way as possible. The way it was explained to me (by my attorney) was this:
      "Because you demonstrated a lack of intent to illegally gain from this activity, the charges are being dropped as long as the overpayment is repaid to the state. They will just write a ticket for a bad inspection sticker, and that's it."

      So initially I'm thinking, OK, I can take this information at face value and use it. But what I want to avoid is saying in the statement that "the charges were dropped" (my attorney's wording) if that can be construed as a false statement.

      The charge was later resolved, I believe you said, but I THINK you would have to say you were arrested. A plea bargain, with restitution, counts as a guilty plea and conviction, contrary to what many think.
      I will have to say I was arrested. That is the truth, and it is on the record, and so there is no avoiding it. When you say that the situation counts as a conviction, can you clarify this for a legal ignoramus?

      I understand that there is technically a conviction (invalid inspection). But if the prevailing logic is that a plea bargain is the same as a conviction, then wouldn't that mean that I am, in every sense of the term, a convicted felon? Wouldn't I be stripped of all the priviledges that are lost by being a felon? Because this is not the case. I guess I'm struggling with the philosophical versus practical issues...

      But primarily I want to be able to accurately describe the event, and its resolution, in as positive a way as possible. Again, thanks for all the help!


      • #4
        I recommend you go to your local law enforcement office (police or sheriff) and ask to get a copy of your criminal background run. It may run $20 or so but it will tell you exactly what the status is and what others will see when they run your check.
        I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.
        Thomas Jefferson


        • #5
          I have already done this. It shows one arrest, no conviction. They are going to ask about the facts of the arrest, and how the situation was ultimately resolved. My fundamental question is how do I accurately and thoroughly explain the disposition of the charge. Can I correctly say that the charge was dismissed? Can I correctly say that I was actually never "charged", but was only arrested (this is the one my attorney goes by, but reading it back to myself, it sounds laughable)?


          • #6
            People who work in HR every day know that an arrest and a conviction are not the same thing. Arrests often do not lead to convictions for a number of reasons.

            You may be asked about the arrest, you may not. I think you are worried about using specific words and probably causing yourself stress needlessly.

            Very few applications ask if you have ever been arrested. Almost all will ask if you have ever been convicted and from what you've said, you have not. To me, thats the end of the story.

            Maybe others may handle it differently but thats my opinion.
            I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.
            Thomas Jefferson


            • #7
              Agree that an arrest doesn't always result in a conviction.
              Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

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