Answering College or Job Application Questions with a Prior or Pending Criminal Charge

Some of the most common questions that we get asked at our firm about answering college or job application questions are set out below. We wanted to shed some light on the responses that we give to our clients who are faced with similar questions.

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1. Have you ever been adjudicated guilty or convicted of a misdemeanor or felony?

Note that you are not required to answer “yes” to this question, or provide an explanation, if the criminal adjudication or conviction has been expunged, sealed, annulled, pardoned, destroyed, erased, impounded, or otherwise required by law or ordered by a court to be kept confidential.

2. Do you have any criminal charges pending against you?

If so, you will need to respond with “yes.” If you have received a charge or citation and you are required to appear in court on an upcoming date this means that you have a criminal pending against you. In North Carolina when you receive a criminal charge it will remain on your record indefinitely, and in most case, even after your case gets dismissed. The smartest practice is to always disclose any pending criminal charges or citations your future employer or academic institution so that there are no surprises when they run a background check. Please understand there is a major difference between being charged and being convicted. Being convicted means that there has been a guilty judgment entered against you and your case has been disposed of. Whereas with a pending criminal charge, that matter is still unresolved and waiting final disposition.

3. Have you ever entered a plea of no contest to a misdemeanor, felony or other criminal charge?

Unless you went to court and plead guilty to a charge or simply paid off your citation, you have not entered a plea of guilty of no contest to a misdemeanor, felony, or other criminal charge. Your attorney may have assisted with your registration into a first offender diversion program or deferral agreement, which requires an admission of guilt by the client. Please understand that there is a major difference between admitting guilt and pleading guilty (no, seriously!). When you admit guilt to the court you are basically telling the DA that you are not going to be contesting the issue and in consideration of this admission the DA will agree to dismiss your case upon successful completion of all requirements of the program. Once again, entering a plea of guilty means that there has been a guilty judgment entered against you and your case has been disposed of.

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