The Collateral Consequences of a Theft Conviction

A theft conviction in Tennessee carries many negative consequences, including a fine and time in jail. But there are other consequences that are just as severe—and longer-lasting. If you are convicted of a crime, you can expect your conviction to follow you around for the rest of your life.

As an established Knoxville criminal defense law firm, we hear many inaccurate statements from the public. One of the most common is that there is no reason to fight a misdemeanor theft charge because a judge will take things easy on you if you have no prior criminal record. Unfortunately, the public is often unaware that a criminal conviction, even for a misdemeanor, can pop up when they least expect it.

Knoxville Employers Run Criminal Background Checks

Some states have begun to limit the ability of an employer to run a background check on a job applicant. Studies have shown that over two-thirds of employers prefer to run these checks, and many will immediately toss an applicant in the “Rejection” bin if they find any criminal convictions, even for something like theft.

Unfortunately, Tennessee does not place any limits on an employer’s ability to run a background check or to use the information it obtains from the criminal history report. Federal law provides some minor protections, such as requiring that you give consent before a check is run. But if you deny consent, don’t be surprised to receive a rejection letter.

Some people hope that federal law will prevent the ability of an employer to rely on criminal convictions when making an employment decision. But that hope is misplaced. A conviction for a crime like theft is directly relevant to many jobs that people are applying for, especially jobs that involve handling money in any capacity. If you work near a cash register, an employer could rationally decide you are too much of a risk because of your theft conviction. Even a job as a waiter or waitress might be out of reach if you have an arrest or conviction.

All hope is not lost if you are convicted, and felons obtain jobs every day, but the odds are against you. It can take quite a bit of effort to convince a boss you are trustworthy, and many people wish they had fought harder against the misdemeanor charges by hiring a Knoxville criminal defense lawyer.

Landlords in Knoxville Can Pull an Applicant’s Criminal History

It is also perfectly legal for a landlord to look at your criminal history if they tell you upfront that they intend to. On many rental applications, there will be a section asking permission to run a background check. You might even need to pay a fee.

Landlords are terrified of renting to people who are irresponsible—and rightly so since the eviction laws in this state make it so hard to get rid of someone who doesn’t pay rent or trashes the place. As a result, the most reputable landlords want as much information as possible about an applicant, including their job and credit history. Landlords also want to see if an applicant has been convicted of a crime.

Someone with a misdemeanor for theft could look like a bad bet. A landlord might assume you will steal from them and possibly not pay your rent. As a result, they can legally deny renting to you based on what they find in your criminal history report.

Colleges Ask about Criminal Convictions on their Applications

If you want to get a college degree to improve your chances of landing a good job, then a conviction for theft could make that harder. Most colleges ask for information about criminal arrests and/or convictions, and you’ll need to disclose your theft offense.

Of course, most colleges do not automatically deny someone admission because of a criminal offense. But you will face a higher hurdle of convincing the school that you have turned yourself around and are a good risk for them to admit.

You Can Lose a Professional License because of a Criminal Conviction

Many professions require that people obtain a license before they can practice. Licenses are typically required for:

  • Lawyers
  • Teachers
  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Pharmacists
  • Real estate agents
  • Insurance agents

These professions also have disciplinary boards empowered to investigate and sanction members for misconduct, including criminal convictions. A theft conviction might not necessarily lead to a suspended license, but each board has wide discretion about when and how it punishes its members. It is best to be proactive so that you do not suffer the possibility of losing your license.

Felons Lose the Right to Vote in Tennessee

Not all theft is a misdemeanor. In fact, any theft of over $1,000 worth of property can qualify as a felony under § 39-14-105. If the state convicts you of a felony in Tennessee, you will lose your right to vote. To get it back, you will need to either have your conviction expunged or have your civil rights restored, both of which are cumbersome processes. The best course is to avoid a conviction in the first place by hiring the best criminal defense lawyer in Knoxville you can find.

Felons are Prohibited from Possessing Firearms

Many people feel this loss even more deeply than losing the right to vote. A felon in Tennessee will lose the right to possess a firearm legally. The only way to get the right to possess firearms back is to expunge the conviction.

Contact a Knoxville Criminal Defense Attorney Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation

With so much at stake, criminal suspects should immediately reach out to an experienced attorney after being picked up for theft. What might seem like a minor offense could, in reality, cause serious issues in every aspect of your life and make it difficult for you to establish yourself financially and professionally.

Contact Barnes Law today. One of our Knoxville criminal defense attorneys can meet with you for a free consultation to discuss the case. Based on our experience, we can chart the best path forward to resolving this legal issue.

To schedule a free consultation, call 865-805-5703 or fill out this online contact form.