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I was arrested at a gay cruising spot near Tampa and charged with lewd and lascivious conduct and battery. ¬†Nothing lewd occurred (even the police report didn’t rise to the level required), and the alleged battery was touching the cop’s elbow when I shook his hand. ¬†The DA dropped the l&l charge and attorney I hired told me to plead no contest to the battery charge. ¬†I wanted it all to go away, so I did. ¬†In spite of knowing about an expunged similar charge (disturbing the peace) from when I was in college 11 years earlier, he told me it would be possible to expunge my record and charged me a fee of 750 dollars to do it… which he did not refund when the denial arrived from the state.

Eleven years later, job hunting still causes me sleepless nights and anxiety attacks. ¬†While I’ve held several highly public jobs since then, every year it seems more and more companies require background checks that delve deeper and more broadly into your past. ¬†Honesty on an application means disclosing the most intensely humiliating experience of my life to a stranger… and then probably not getting the job anyway, no matter what the law says about not being able to use a criminal record against you. ¬†Dishonesty means hoping it won’t turn up… and then not getting the job if it does.
The criminal justice system was never designed to punish people in perpetuity. ¬†My employment history and my life itself show that my brief record says nothing about who I am. ¬†But as long as it’s public record, my punishment didn’t end when I paid my fine.
User story by Paul in Florida

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