Guilty pleas may remain on background checks indefinitely

Individuals who take part in diversion programs in Georgia or any other state likely need to plead guilty in their cases. This is true in spite of the fact that a charge may be dismissed if an individual successfully completes the program. Although the case may be considered dropped at the state level, a guilty plea could still be considered a conviction at the federal level.

This was the conclusion reached by the Seventh Circuit in the case of Aldaco v. Rentgrow. Therefore, it could show up on a background check under the terms of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. Per the FCRA, convictions are allowed to remain on a person's record indefinitely. If a person is merely taken into custody, it will stay on his or her record for seven years. In the Aldaco case, a woman was denied the ability to rent an apartment after a battery charge appeared on a background check that the landlord conducted.

The charge appeared despite the fact that the case was dropped after she completed a diversionary program. To avoid similar cases, it may be possible to change the law so that individuals don't have to plead guilty to take part in such a program. It may also be possible to simply expunge a person's record after this occurs to keep a criminal charge from appearing in background checks.

Individuals who have been charged with a crime are generally considered innocent until proven guilty. Furthermore, they are under no obligation to plead guilty to a charge for any reason. A criminal defense attorney may be able to suppress evidence or present an alternate theory as to how a crime occurred. This might be enough to get a case dropped or for jurors to acquit a defendant.

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