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College indiscretions may haunt Florida job seekers

According to data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey and the U.S. Department of Labor, about 53.6 percent of four-year college graduates under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed. That rate is the highest in 11 years, affecting around 1.5 million individuals.

As those numbers might suggest, the current economic recession makes the job market extremely competitive. Consequently, employers can afford to base hiring decisions on categories which may not fall under the protection of employment laws, but which might still seem unfair to many Florida readers.

In particular, job applicants with an arrest record are facing employment obstacles, according to a recent U.S. Department of Justice report. The author of the report found that candidates with a criminal record may be automatically removed from consideration, regardless of mitigating factors that -- in a robust economy -- might otherwise win over an employer. For example, it appears to make no difference whether an individual is otherwise qualified for the job, has demonstrated rehabilitation, has a low chance of recidivism, or even whether the crime was just a misdemeanor.

That outcome is regrettable, considering that many minor offenses committed on college campuses are likely more attributable to youthful indiscretion, rather than a proclivity for criminal behavior. For example, misdemeanor underage drinking is a common offense in many college arrests, yet even this crime can result in a permanent record and impair a college graduate's job prospects.

In the case of a sex crime, the lingering consequences of a criminal record may be even more severe. At a college party, in particular, the behavior that constitutes a sexual assault may arise from ambiguous circumstances or involve a distorted chain of events. Sexual assault allegations can also be brought for disingenuous reasons. Yet even a sexual assault allegation that is later disproved can negatively impact a student's academic and early professional career.

With such potential life-long consequences associated with a criminal record, anyone facing criminal charges -- even a misdemeanor -- should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney can mount an aggressive defense and attempt to achieve an outcome that will not become part of a person's permanent record.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, "Minor arrest records can keep college students out of job market," Desiree Stennett, Jan. 6, 2013

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