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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 23155
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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Almost 5 years ago, I was charged with Theft in the 5th degree.

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Almost 5 years ago, I was charged with Theft in the 5th degree. I was 21 years old at the time and making the first big mistake in my life. I had never had any legal trouble before this charge, not even a speeding ticket. I had been an honor student through high school and continued to get good grades through college. In addition, I have been heavily involved in school and community activities (considered a leader) and was even awarded a Presidential Volunteer Award.
I consider myself to be a standup citizen and an asset to any company I work for. Luckily, I have been able to hold rather high-level jobs in the past including General Manager for a retail store and Director of a nonprofit organization. However, as I try to further my career now, I am faced with the devastating obstacle of background checks.
I cannot even count how many job applications I have filled out (some even overly qualified for) and had to put down my unfortunate criminal history, resulting in no interviews. I have also lost jobs already hired for once a background check comes back. I’ve been asked to leave 2 jobs after I had left previous ones and already started with the new company, resulting in me being unemployed and not qualifying for unemployment services.
I clearly possess very hirable qualities but remain struggling to find work.
At the time of the charge, my lawyer recommended I get everything done as quickly as possible taking the charge and the lesser fine, rather than having the charge wiped from my record with a higher fine and community service. I expressed my concern for getting jobs after graduation with a simple misdemeanor attached to my name but he assured me it would not be an issue. Had I known just how wrong he was, I would have gladly paid a larger fee and given as much of my time as they wanted.
A mistake made when I was young should not affect my entire career and ultimately, my life. How can you help me?

Unfortunately, some states are very tough when it comes to their expungment laws and Iowa will not expunge an adult conviction. If this were a juvenile offense you would be eligible for an expungement. If you got a deferred disposition (case dismissed at the end of probation) you could get that off of your record too. If those exceptions don't apply, as they appear not to, then there are two other things you can try in order to clean up your record.

The first is to apply for a pardon from the governor. That won't wipe the crimes off of your record, but it forgives them and that is stamped on your history. You can read more about the pardon here. It is free to apply and you don't need a lawyer to do it. They are not frequently granted, but you've been out of trouble for 5 years would appear to have had an exemplary history since than and would be a better candidate than many applicants.

For the other, you would need a lawyer and it may prove to be an expensive longshot. That would be to hire a lawyer to petition the court to get the cases back on the calendar and try to get your charge dismissed in the interest of justice. The judge has the power under Equity to do something like that even when the law doesn't provide for it, if it is necessary to prevent an injustice from occurring.

Courts are sparing in their use of the equity power and many don't like to use it at all, but it is something you could explore with a local criminal lawyer who would be able to tell you how viable this would be with your particular judge. If you can get this charge dismissed, then Iowa will expunge it.

Best of luck!!
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I understand that Iowa has stricter laws that most other states when it comes to getting a record expunged. Do you think there is any way to make a big enough impact on that they would ever consider changing these? I know in many states, they are really trying to help those with simple misdemeanors by having the 'Ban the Box' laws in place. What do you think the chances would be to get Iowa more open to that?


I couldn't possibly tell you this. But the way to go about accomplishing that is to form some kind of grass roots organization and then lobby for the changes in the legislature.

In general, states are starting to liberalize their expungement laws. They haven't all jumped on the bandwagon, but the trend is moving in that direction. So who knows? Generate enough interest and perhaps you can make a difference.
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