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Thread: Planning with a criminal history

  1. #1

    Planning with a criminal history

    I just graduated (December '10) from the University of Oregon with a 3.69 GPA, majoring in political science, minor econ. I was considering going to grad school this year or next for an MUP, focusing on bicycle transportation and/or urban design. After reading about how horrible the market for urban planners is currently and be informed by our states DOT that they will not hire anyone with a bad driving record I am seriously questioning entering this field. I believe I would like it a lot and would really like to make a difference improving our country. The poor salary prospects I can handle, but not being able to get a job or advance, given my past history, is very troubling.

    Two years ago I was charged with DUII, reckless driving, and evading police. I honestly can't remember any of it. I am not the type to run from the police but that is what I did. I have been sober everyday since. The evasion charge was a felony. I was convicted on all charges but all were misdemeanors. I made a deal based on good behavior for one year and was thus given misdemeanor treatment. However the cheap background checks report felony, even though I can prove otherwise with court docs.

    Given such history and that driving convictions in Oregon cannot be expunged only pardoned by the governor, should I even begin the time and costs of grad school? I would love to enter the planning field, but is that even possible? Could I get a job? And if I want to work on bicycle planning could I find work outside of DOTs? Will I have to just focus on non-profits and the private sector? Will they even hire me? I intend to stay sober and never let anything like this happen again. Can public or private sector employers look past this?

    Thanks for any and all advice. Just give it to me straight.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    First, congratulations on being sober since the incident.

    Second, maybe Oregon has rules that others states do not have. In my home state you can have any misdemeanor expunged with the proper classwork/counseling/etc based on the charge. The problem with that is police can still see the charges even if they were expunged. If are willing to look for a job outside of Oregon you may have a more lenient DOT.

    Finally, the only thing you can do is explain to a potential employer what happened and that since the incident you've proved yourself to be a good citizen. We are not defined by who we were yesterday and our mistakes help make us who we are today. If you do go to graduate school it will help put a few more years behind the incident and time heals everything. If you are honest in the hiring process and show the situation was as a one-time-only thing they will hopefully appreciate your honesty and not worry about it.

    Best of luck to you and again congratulations on working to better yourself. The very fact that you are concerned shows how dumb this mistake was and it won't happen again.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian The District's avatar
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    I've worked at several private sector firms, and none have required a background check, but this will likely vary. I would guess that really large (i.e., publicly traded) firms may check backgrounds, but I don't know for sure.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Bubba's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The District View post
    I would guess that really large (i.e., publicly traded) firms may check backgrounds, but I don't know for sure.
    Some do - especially the ones that do a lot of federal contracting.
    I found you a new motto from a sign hanging on their wall…"Drink coffee: do stupid things faster and with more energy"

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    My SO works as a recruiter. Her employer has hired persons with convictions. The real issue is your qualifications, unless like Bubba suggests, there may be a need to secure a security clearance. Even then it is still possible. Don't let your past scare you away from the profession.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  6. #6
    Thank you all for the posts. I really appreciate the feedback. I can and will be honest about what happened. While I regret what I did, in the end I am better off now than before. I will focus on qualifications and use the whole thing as motivation. It is good to know that I do still have a chance. Thanks guys.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    I also did a dumb mistake like that back in my college days. Although it was only a DUI and it got dropped to a misdemeanor and I paid my fine, did my classes, etc. Since it was only a misdemeanor, it did not show up at background checks for my private sector gig. I petitioned the state of california to expunge the case after four years under a little known law. The case was sealed. I do not know if it show up on a DOJ report since i hear those things stay on for 7 years or whatever. All I know is I don't have to report it. My current public sector employer didn't really care because of my qualifications. Look into your state to see if a similar program exists.
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

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