How Can I Protect My Career If I’m Arrested or Convicted of Florida Domestic Violence?
“Can I be fired for a domestic violence arrest?”
It’s a common enough question asked by defendants facing Florida domestic violence charges.
The short answer: Probably.
That doesn’t mean it’s a given, but it would be misleading to say that this isn’t a consequence for many people facing such charges. The truth is, you may not be able to fully shield your career from the fall-out of a domestic violence conviction. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be strategic in how you navigate these issues - and hopefully minimize the blow. It also underscores just how important it is to hire a good criminal defense lawyer in the earliest stages. You might be able to reduce your risk of conviction, plead to lesser charges, or enter a diversion program - all of which might lessen the impact to your current and future job prospects.
As Fort Lauderdale domestic violence criminal defense lawyers, we’re primarily focused on representing clients on the criminal side of things. But we are familiar with how these issues play out in the employment law arena. We make sure our clients know: Florida is an at-will state, meaning the employer can end the employment contract without reason at any time - barring a contract or union agreement or work for a government employer. The main exception would be if the adverse employment action amounts to discrimination of someone in a protected class. An arrest or conviction for domestic violence is not a protected class.
Our legal team appreciates that we aren’t just protecting your civil rights and freedoms; We’re also working to protect your future. Jobs Where a Conviction or Arrest is Likely to Matter Most
The potential impact to your career likely depends on where you work, what position you hold, the degree of authority you have, and the extent to which you’re placed in a position of trust or caregiving - particularly over vulnerable people.
The main types of careers our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers see impacted by domestic violence arrests include:
- Jobs that involve public trust, authority, or caregiving. If you’re a politician, it’s likely to matter. If you’re a police officer, it’s likely to matter. If you work with children, the elderly, or disabled people - a conviction for a crime of violence is likely to matter.
- Jobs that require a state, federal, or professional license. There are some licensing boards that can deny applications or license renewals for first-degree misdemeanor positions. Teaching licenses, nursing licenses, law licenses, medical board licenses - all of these can revoke your standing to practice due to a criminal conviction of violence.
- Jobs that require you to be armed. Policing, corrections, security - all of these require personnel to carry a firearm. If you’re convicted of a crime of domestic violence, you may be stripped of this right, and thus no longer able to work in your previous field.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it offers a good sense of those who have a great deal at stake and should do all they can to fight the charges and push back against a conviction, if possible.
In some cases, offenses may have a disqualifying period. For example, “crimes of moral turpitude” - which can include aggravated battery, aggravated assault, abuse of an elderly person, child abuse, felony battery - strangulation, or aggravated stalking - have a 15-year disqualification bar for certain Florida government positions. Domestic violence in that case has a 7-year disqualification bar.
If you’re facing possible action from a professional licensing board due to a Florida domestic violence arrest, it’s smart to hire a lawyer who can represent you in professional licensing board proceedings.Domestic Violence Arrests are Public Record in Florida
Florida has broad open-record “Sunshine Laws.” That means details of arrests and convictions can be released to pretty much any member of the public upon request. That includes local media organizations, which routinely review arrest records within jurisdictions. Arrest and incident reports often contain personal details - not only who you are, but what you do for a living. If you work in a public trust, authority, or caregiving, it’s not a stretch that media organizations will find it.
If it’s published, that can further limit your options when it comes to informing your current and prospective employers. Although you might be inclined to consider it a private matter - definitely not something you want to discuss with your boss - a news outlet can force your hand. Discuss this with your lawyer - especially if your case is pending. Not only might your words to your boss or the media end up hurting your career, they could be used in court against you.
If you’re already employed, the type of employment you have and the terms of your employment contract will dictate whether you need to inform your employer and/or the degree to which it will matter if it’s discovered on its own. Whether you’re fired depends on the type of position you hold and possibly the details of the arrest. You may be transferred to a position with different responsibilities or that is less public-facing. But you might also need to brace for the possibility of being fired.
If you are seeking a job, it’s worth noting that Florida is not like other states that restrict employers from conducting background checks. Some counties and communities may have their own “ban-the-box” initiatives that are aimed at giving those convicted of crimes a fair shot at securing employment for which they’re qualified, that’s not universal state-wide.
If you’re asked outright, it’s best not to lie. Not only will a background check unearth any prior convictions, but Florida’s open records laws make finding such information fairly easy.
However, if the question is, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime” - and you’ve only been arrested, but not convicted, you’re likely safe to answer honestly with, “No.” (This is one benefit of opting for an outcome of “adjudication withheld” in your domestic violence case - is that you’ll be able to answer, “No” to this question.)
Similarly, if you are asked about felony arrests or convictions, you may be safe to answer “No” if the arrest/conviction was for misdemeanor domestic violence. However, be sure that you carefully read the question before answering.
Issues can also arise if your domestic violence arrest was out-of-state, but you’re professionally licensed in Florida.
If you are facing charges of domestic violence, contact our legal team to learn more about how we can help protect your rights, your freedom, your best interests, and your future.
Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.