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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

DUI Advice

Dear Evil HR Lady:

I am currently applying for a new job. The particular position I am applying for is working for a City... so it is a city/gov't job.

On the application are two questions:

Have you ever been convicted of any offense(s) other than a driving violation? (Exlude juvenile offenses if records legally sealed.) If yes, list offense(s) and date(s) of conviction(s) in the "Comments" section. A yes answer is not necessarily disqualifying. yes no

Have you ever been convicted of wreckless driving or driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs OR has your driver's license ever been suspended or revoked as a result of conviction(s) of driving violation(s): list offense(s) and date(s) of conviction(s) in the "Comments" section. A yes answer is not necessarily disqualifying. yes no

OK- that said. I had a DUI in April of 1997. 10 years after a violation like that, it is no longer on your DMV record. I ordered a copy of my DMV record and it is clear- not tickets, DUI, nothing. So, my question to you is, do I have to reveal this on the application? What resource do they use to look at my background and how far back do they go? Any advice?

Also- if I do have to reveal it, do I have to answer yes to both of the questions above, or just the second one?


As just a little reminder I am not a lawyer. I never have been a lawyer. I did teach LSAT prep classes for Kaplan once upon a time, but that focused on logic questions not actual laws. I am also not an expert on DUIs, but I'll do my best.

First of all I don't know what the nature of your conviction was. I don't know how your state classifies driving under the influence. I am going to assume that you can answer no to question one.

But what about question 2? You'll notice that I've bolded a couple phrases. The word ever keeps popping up. So, the answer is yes, you MUST reveal this offense. If your state considers DUI a traffic offense only there's a good chance it wouldn't show up on a background check. But it might.

More importantly, falsifying information on your application is grounds for firing you. And when I say firing I mean firing for cause--no hope of severance, no eligibility for unemployment benefits.

So, is all lost? Absolutely not. It's illegal to discriminate against you due to a conviction unless it is related to the job. If your job doesn't involve driving, combined with the fact that the conviction was 10 years ago, it shouldn't matter. You also have the advantage that this is a government job and governments tend to be sticklers about following regulations.

Don't ever lie. It's easy to convince yourself that you'll never get caught. You might not, but you might and that can be a huge career destroyer. It's doubtful a 10 year old DUI will have any effect on your application, but not putting it on and having them find out later will ruin whatever chances you may have had.

Even if it's not on a driver's license check, it still exists. Remember, even if God forgives and forgets your neighbors never do. So even your ability to survive a background check can not stop your old buddy from getting a job in the neighboring cube and joking, "Hey, still driving around drunk?" Ha, ha, ha. And then your boss thinks, "I don't remember that," and he pulls your application and you're out on your ear.

Always, always, always, tell the truth. And for the rest of you, for Heaven's sake don't drink and drive.


Ask a Manager said...

Also, a DMV record is not the same as a criminal record. Assuming it was a criminal conviction (which I think DUI always is), it will appear on your criminal record forever (unless you get your record expunged). I'd agree with EHRL's advice even if this weren't the case, but hopefully this will help overcome any temptation to gloss over this one! Good luck with it!

GeekChic said...

Not sure what state the poster is seeking employment in... but at my last job in Texas the applications had similar questions. I would have expected a "No" to question 1 in this situation (though a "Yes" wouldn't have surprised me) and I would have demanded a "Yes" to question 2.

I once had an applicant for a job while working in Texas who reported a DUI that was 12+ years old. It did show up on their criminal background check. It didn't disqualify them (in fact, they were hired) - but if they had lied they definitely wouldn't have gotten the job or would have been fired shortly after being hired (background checks were run on everyone).

Anonymous said...

It annoys me that the second question is even on the application or is required to be answered by those applying for non-driver positions. What is the point? That's a government application for you.
Evil is right though - never lie. Never, never, never lie to your employer. It always comes back to bite you. I have seen a grown man cry when confronted with a lie on his application and resume submitted 2 years prior (he was applying for an internal promotion so that is how things eventually were found out). It was so ugly I cannot even tell you. It was one of those moments when I wished I wasn't in HR.

Daniel said...

Since I AM a lawyer (but can't provide legal advice on a blog), I think one piece of information is missing. Did the applicant get "convicted" of a DUI offense. Many times you can plead to something like "nolo contendre" or a first time accelerated rehabilitation. In those types of instances, a criminal record (depending on the state or circumstance) may be cleared or, the person has not been "convicted" of the crime. You shouldn't be hyper-technical with the answer but you shouldn't simply give unnecessary information if you don't need to. Obviously, telling the truth (and the whole truth) is critical but if the question doesn't call for the information the applicant might have (even though it may be "close"), then there may be a good reason for answering the question a certain way.

The Engineer said...

I have to answer question one in the affirmative. It hurts every time to check yes, but has never stopped me from getting the job to this point. Just answer the question and move on. It asks for offense and date. Only put that information. No explanation.

I agree that question two only applies for those who will drive. However, occasional driving seems nearly ubiquitous these days and liability concerns would make such a blanket question appropriate.

Sara said...

I agree with everyone's comments. You should definitely answer with truth, because (ESPECIALLY GOV'T JOBS) fingerprinting and background checks turn up everything. In my previous recruitment job, I was in charge of drug testing and fingerprints, and let me tell you, things come up. We hired a woman who said she was never arrested; however, fingerprinting revealed she was arrested for possession in 1968! We would have hired her.... if she did not lie.

Most companies have their own policies. At my bank, we only consired crimes that have happened in the past ten years (except for theft, since it was a bank). If it was that long ago, they may look past it.

Anonymous said...

i didn't divulge. I got the job!! then, they completed a background check before I got my offer in writing, and, well, they found the six year old conviction of DUI. The job offer was rescinded.

never, ever, ever lie.

Anonymous said...

what if it was only a year ago? would it look bad if i apply for a government job?


Anonymous said...

I was informally offered a professional position this week, and in order to make the formal offer I was asked to fill out an electronic application and consent to a background check.

The employer asked if I had ever been convicted of any crime. I answered truthfully that I had a DUI 15 years ago. I was pulled over and had .01% which unfortunately was the legal limit at the time. (15 minutes later I would have probably been fine).

In any case I paid my fine 15 years ago and haven't had any issues since. Would a company typically have a problem with this? This is for a professional position, not driving, etc.