On the record: Beyond arrest, convictions bring life sentence of hardship

ST. GEORGE – People who have committed a criminal offense soon realize there’s a lot more to worry about than the arrest itself. More than just spending time in jail, it’s important to consider the lifelong implications of a criminal record, which places constraints on living, affects people in ways some don’t expect and causes some to pay more than twice the price for their offense.

“Criminal convictions can have long lasting impacts on a defendant’s life,” Deputy Washington County Attorney Brian Filter said. “Some by operation of law such as restrictions on voting rights and the ability to possess a firearm following conviction of certain crimes. Others have impact on their professional or work life. Societal impacts follow as well.”

What some don’t bargain for is the haunting effect that being branded a criminal or a felon can have on day-to-day living and the collateral cost. The legal obligation to disclose a criminal record can affect a person’s ability to get a job, housing, loans, public benefits and financial aid for education. What’s more, those charges will likely show up on their record for the rest of their life.

“Many of these impacts are logical and serve a legitimate purpose,” Filter said. “However, there are times that the impact is greater and longer-lasting than the crime merits.”

The Scarlet Letter

According to the National Institution of Justice, a substantial share of the U.S. population has arrest records and nearly one-third of American adults have been arrested by age 23.

Once an arrest has been made, it is public record. The law allows for the arrest on a charge to be public record even if that person has not been convicted.

In very limited circumstances a person can actually clear or remove their criminal record by having them sealed or expunged. Relatively minor crimes may be eligible for sealing or removal, but may take some time.

There are mechanisms within the law to facilitate people with criminal convictions being able to move on with their lives,” Filter said. “Reductions in severity of offense under Utah Code Section 76-3-402, and or expungement of offenses, is available to some offenders to clear their record after an appropriate amount of time and in cases where it is deemed appropriate.”

Unless a person has been pardoned for the offense, records of a capital felony, first-degree felony or violent felony; automobile homicide; felony driving under the influence; or a registerable sex offense cannot be expunged.

Education and career impacts

People with criminal records have an increased difficulty finding a job as most employers require applicants to list any crimes they have been convicted of. Many businesses choose not to hire applicants who have been convicted of a crime – or even people who were arrested, cleared and released, if the arrests are still on their record.

A person’s criminal history is generally used by potential employers and lenders to assess a person’s trustworthiness. A criminal record will keep many people from obtaining employment, according to the National Institution of Justice, even if they have paid their dues, are qualified for the job and are unlikely to reoffend.

Individuals who have been incarcerated are significantly more likely to be unemployed, underemployed, and underpaid than they were prior to their incarceration, according to a report by Pew Charitable Trusts. For those who have been incarcerated and are able to find jobs, they are likely to earn 40 percent less per year than they would have earned before their incarceration, according to the report.

A conviction might effectively disqualify someone who is applying for college or certain scholarships. Furthermore, those convicted of drug crimes cannot receive student loans.

Felonies are even more serious and often make it impossible to work in certain fields. State laws and licensing boards often bar convicted felons from entering occupations such as hairstyling.

Excluded from society

No matter how exemplary a person leads their life after their conviction, their past record will continue to show. Besides the damage to a personal and professional reputation, having a criminal record and the discrimination that often follows, can also have a huge impact on personal life.

“Social stigma can be attached greater than is appropriate for some,” Filter said. “Many people make an isolated mistake, perhaps an indiscretion of youth, go on to take responsibility for their actions, pay an appropriate cost and should be able to move on with their lives, especially for the less serious offenses.”

Being arrested, tried and sent to prison can give someone a sense that they are excluded from society, even after they’ve served their time. Those convicted of certain crimes may not be able to live near schools, parks or other areas. Criminal records may result in the denial of home, car, or business loans.

Many mortgage lenders and landlords ask about criminal convictions and require applicants to list any crimes they have been convicted of, making it very difficult to find housing. Felons further experience the loss of certain civil rights. They often face the suspension or termination of their driver’s license and other licenses and are often stripped of the right to vote and the right to own firearms.

The price paid by the victims 

“I feel compelled to note,” Filter said, “that in situations where the crime involved a victim, the victim of that crime very often, particularly victims of sexual and/or violent offenses, carry burdens from the criminal activity no less serious, no less constricting, on their lives and in fact for some far more debilitating and often carry those burdens the rest of their lives.”

Misdemeanor cases in Utah

Misdemeanors are lesser crimes than felonies. Penalties for these crimes may include up to one year in a county jail along with heavy fines and required educational or treatment related classes, and court or supervised probation. There are three levels of Utah misdemeanor charges.

  • Class C misdemeanors might include driving with a suspended license; driving without a valid license; public intoxication; and disorderly conduct.
  • Some class B misdemeanor examples include possession of one ounce or less of marijuana; possession of drug paraphernalia; reckless driving and other traffic offenses; DUI; assault; resisting arrest; theft of $500 or less worth of property; trespassing; creating a public nuisance; and carrying a concealed weapon.
  • Class A misdemeanors include possession of between one ounce and one pound of marijuana; criminal mischief; assaulting a police officer; theft of $500 to $1,500 worth of property; DUI with injury; negligent homicide; providing false information to an officer; and violation of a protective order.

Utah felonies and capital offense

Felonies are more significant crimes than misdemeanors. Penalties for felonies include serving time in a Utah State Prison and steeper fines. There are four levels of felony charges in Utah.

  • A third-degree felony might include a DUI offense within ten years; theft or check forgery of $1,000-$5,000; aggravated assault; possession of cocaine or other controlled substance; possession of marijuana with intent to distribute; burglary of building other than a dwelling. Possible penalties include up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.
  • Second-degree felony examples include theft or check forgery of amount over $5,000; auto theft; residential burglary; robbery; kidnapping; forcible sexual abuse; intentional abuse of a child; manslaughter; or perjury. Possible penalties include one to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
  • Examples of a first-degree felony include aggravated burglary; robbery or arson; possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute near a school; kidnapping a child; rape; or murder. Possible penalties include a minimum of five years in prison with a maximum sentence of life and up to $10,000 in fines.

Aggravated murder is a capital offense with possible penalties including life in prison; life in prison without parole; consecutive or concurrent life sentences; or the death penalty.

Email: kscott@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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20 Comments

  • Koolaid September 15, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    Really, though, does having bishop connections and a good mission record help lesson the penalty in southern Utah courts?

    • ladybugavenger September 15, 2014 at 7:11 pm

      You can forget a baby in a hot car and it dies and it will be called a terrible mistake and then you will get a fundraiser and have no charges against you if you are morman, pay your tithing, and go the gym.

      • Simone September 15, 2014 at 9:45 pm

        You forgot, “and dress like a15 year old slag”.

    • Christian Warmsley ( PI) September 17, 2014 at 9:40 am

      Now think, What if you are an innocent person. Your attorney didn’t do his job What then?

  • philiplo September 15, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    A very good read on this subject is, “The New Jim Crow,” which details how our criminal justice system has created a new caste system in America. Thank you for the article, Ms. Scott. Perhaps a follow-up could be written on how this disproportionately affects our African American community.

    • bobber September 15, 2014 at 5:44 pm

      uhm, do we have an African American community here?… news to me.

    • {PI} Christian Warmsley September 17, 2014 at 9:47 am

      Very good point, I have seen Not African Americans but black people ran threw the system like an ATM card. Not all black people that are convicted are innocent, but a lot are. We have a huge problem with the public defenders office in Washington County.

  • Zonkerb September 15, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    We have a banana tree community here.? I didn’t know president Buckwheat Oblowme and Moochelle were living here

    • Dana September 16, 2014 at 9:28 am

      Zonkerb are you really that racist or are you just ignorant?

      • T September 16, 2014 at 9:44 am

        S/he’s most likely from Southern Utah, so the answer is “yes”.

  • Native born New Mexican September 15, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    Law enforcement officers and courts are well aware of the damage these arrest records cause when they make up things to arrest and convict people with. So should legislators be when they try to make everything into a serious crime. This is another terrible effect the police state we have become is having on the lives of everyday people. I had a very good lawyer tell me years ago The state – government can make any one into a felon if they want to. Go watch a prosecutor lie in court in order to get a conviction. It is next to impossible to prove your self innocent with out a hat full of money which most people don’t have. So guilty or not they have to accept a plea bargain because the prosecutor has made up as much garbage as he possibly can to charge them with if they don’t accept one. You will lose your job, your kids, go bankrupt, be abused in jail and on it goes. There is nothing fair, or just about our legal and law enforcement system here in the USA. For shame!

  • reggin September 15, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    I hope you all cry when you realize joseph smith was NOT a child molester

    • tinker toys September 15, 2014 at 9:23 pm

      That is the most ignorant statememt I have ever read. If having sex with little girls isn’t molestation what on earth is in your opinion?

    • bobber September 15, 2014 at 10:17 pm

      If Joseph Smith was around today he would undoubtedly be listed on sex offender registry.

  • judtivr September 16, 2014 at 2:18 am

    Why do we always bring up lds people to everything that happens . I sure hope some day those Mormons we so talk about don’t end. Up saving or life’s or some one in our families lived .

    • judtivr September 16, 2014 at 2:20 am

      We are all just so perfect we always have to find someone else to blame

  • Mean Momma September 16, 2014 at 6:56 am

    I’m pretty sure Bobber and Koolaid have found this article to be true. Probably why they have so much free time to comment dumb crap that makes no sense on every single story.

    • Koolaid September 17, 2014 at 9:29 am

      Nobody answered my question about if mormons who have bishop connections and good mission records are subjected to lower fines and penalties, if any at all. Guess that non-answer means yes to my question.

  • My Evil Twin September 16, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    If people had the intelligence to realize that this article is true, they would perhaps think for a bit, before doing criminal acts. But they don’t think. The only thinking they do is, “I want something and I want it right now!” They are always certain that they are smarter than everyone else, and will never get caught. And then when they do get busted, they whine, snivel and cry about those “mean old cops,” and how the legal system is “picking” on them.
    Actions have consequences.

  • (PI) September 17, 2014 at 9:55 am

    Such a great article, Lets say a person was convicted but they were innocent. What then? Make sure your attorney is doing their job. Remember they work for you, you don’t work for them.

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