The purported purpose of the criminal justice system and in particular, the Department of Justice, is to transform those who enter the system from convicted criminals to functioning members of society. The sad truth is that a federal prison or a stint on federal probation may only be the beginning of a lifelong sentence of difficulties for those convicted of a crime that can include increased roadblocks when attempting to find employment or even get a higher education.
A federal judge sentenced an unnamed mother of four to serve five years of federal probation for her role in an insurance scam. According to prosecutors, the woman, referred to in court documents as Jane Doe, faked injuries that she claimed were received in an automobile accident. She falsely claimed that she received medical treatment in order to receive increased insurance payouts. Most would believe that this was a win for Doe, as she didn’t receive a sentence that involved spending time in a federal prison, a place that would have drawn Doe apart from her children and the ability to support them.
After completing her five years of probation, Jane Doe found it extremely difficult to get by and was unable to obtain stable employment in order to provide for her children. She stated that her criminal record was instantly discovered in background checks performed on behalf of employers, which almost guaranteed her employment application to be rejected.
In an attempt to ensure survivability, Doe went back to federal court and asked U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson to expunge her sentence. When a court expunges a conviction, they are essentially erasing its existence. This is different than the sealing of a record of conviction or a Presidential pardon, which do not involve the original conviction being erased, but merely hidden or pardoned. The judge agreed with Doe andordered that the record of her conviction be expunged. The actions of Judge Gleeson aren’t only rare, but almost unheard of. There is not any formal process that a person can apply for their conviction to be expunged. In fact, the only way that it can be done is by going before a federal judge and hoping that an order is granted. That is exactly what happened in the instant situation. Judge Gleeson recognized that there is a “a growing recognition that the adverse employment consequences of old convictions are excessive and counter-productive.”
It shouldn’t be surprising that the Department of Justice is fighting the order and has already lodged an appeal. One thing is certain regarding this case: criminal convictions can haunt you even if you don’t spend any time in a federal prison. It is in a defendant’s best interest to take any criminal action against them with the utmost seriousness regardless of the potential penalty as the adverse effects of a criminal conviction can and will last a lifetime. If you have been arrested or are being investigated for violation of a federal law, it is imperative that you contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact George Hildebrandt, an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney with over 30 years of experience.