In a country where we pride ourselves that we make the sacrifice for the ideal of ‘innocent until proven guilty’, you might be surprised to know that this isn’t completely the case. If you are arrested unjustly, the charges still follow you, and while you can fix this through expungement, the process is long and costly. Consider this, you are guilty until you do the work and pay the money to prove your innocence.
How can an arrest on your record affect your life? First off, Florida law does not prohibit an employer from asking you if you have been arrested. What this means, is that if you answer yes, it’s going to look just as nasty as a conviction. And, if you lie on your application, it is grounds for immediate termination if it were to ever come to light. Maybe, most jobs won’t ask you for your arrest history, but many jobs involving security, legal affairs, or even the health industry.
There are Constitutional rights to Due Process of Law, establishing the fact that in America you are given rights to assume your innocence. However, with a system that allows for arrest records to be checked, and the outcome of the cases being redundant, is it a genuine idea? Some states have mandated laws that protect people from questions on applications, such as arrest history. But, until the Federal Government steps in and says that government and private industries cannot discriminate based on this, there will be a lapse in rights. The basic rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
As stated before, the process to expunging a record is long and drawn out. First, you must get a certified copy of the deposition of the case from the Clerk of Court in the county where the arrest took place, then you must get the State Attorney’s office to sign off on a notarized form. From there, it must be sent to your states Department of Law Enforcement with a check. They send you back a certificate, saying that the charge is able to be expunged from your record. Then, you must complete the forms for the court, and pay their fees – a process which, by its very nature, is spent waiting on agencies to approve and take your money. The alternative to this, is to pay an attorney. The attorney can handle everything for you, but will charge a pretty penny to do so. So, you decide – doesn’t this system need to change?