It really is unfair, but there is a major distinction made between people who have a clean record and one that contains even a minor blemish. There is even a bigger distinction if that blemish is a conviction for a crime like domestic violence.
There are two areas of concern when it comes to determining how a criminal record might affect your life. There are objective and the subjective consequences.
The objective consequences are the easiest to know and understand up front. For a domestic violence conviction they would include consequences such as:
- Loss of right to own, possess, or use a firearm or ammunition
- Termination from or inability to join the military
- International travel restrictions
- Loss of concealed weapon permit
- Listing on criminal RAP sheet
The trickier consequences are the ones that are subjectively applied. This means the consequences that others choose to impose upon you, separate and apart from any legal requirements.
For example, many employers will simply refuse to hire someone with a domestic violence conviction. They won’t care about the circumstances of the case. Simply having the record will be enough. Same goes for background checks that may be required to volunteer at church or school. Other times people with a record will be denied a raise or a promotion at work. Maybe the record won’t cause them to be fired, but it can certainly hold someone back.
I think that everyone who cares at all about themselves or their family should be concerned about a criminal record. Even if you don’t think you will face any consequences today, you need to consider how this might affect you in 5, 10, or 20 years (criminal records in South Carolina do not “expire”).
The best way to avoid the consequences of a criminal record is to avoid the conviction in the first place. Being arrested is not the same thing as a conviction. You are only convicted if you plead-guilty, plead no-contest, or are found guilty after a trial. If you successfully complete pre-trial intervention, have your case dismissed, or are found no-guilty then you will avoid these consequences. Additionally, you can have the record of the original arrest expunged from your record, meaning for almost all purposes it will be like the case never existed.