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Not your usual background check question

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Joined: 27 Mar 2017
Posts: 1
Not your usual background check question [#permalink]

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New post 27 Mar 2017, 15:43
Hi all - before you dismiss as "if you were honest on background check, you have nothing to worry about", I'm wondering if I was unintentionally dishonest regarding my criminal background.

As "background", I received an underage drinking misdemeanor when I was in college. I hired a lawyer, entered a "first offender program" via a "deferred prosecution agreement" and the charges were voluntarily dismissed following a series of basic tasks (community service, alcohol class). On my official record, the charge is showed as "voluntarily dismissed - completed FOP" (First Offender Program).

I've never been too concerned with this on my record as any job related question asked about convictions. Further, when I started the MBA application process, I made sure (or so I thought) to honestly answer any questions about my legal blemish. For instance, some applications "have you ever been charged with a crime" or "have you ever entered a pre-trial diversion program" (I answered yes and felt no issue explaining my mistake and remorse - got interviews at both so wasn't a deal breaker obviously), but at the advice of my lawyer I did not "over share" (eg, no need to bring up charge if the question was only about conviction). Here's where the potential trouble starts....

The school which I am about to undergo a background check for asked their legal question in a strange fashion, specifically including a clause asking if I'd ever "been put on a court-supervised probation". Having reviewed my legal paperwork from my case years ago (specifically the First Offender agreement with the DA), there was never a reference to "probation". Further, I reached out to my original attorney from the case with the specific question, who told me that I was correct in responding no because I was "neither convicted nor put on supervised probation".

So why am I worried? In my paranoia about this background check, I have been reading up on the definition of "court-supervised probation" which it turns out is not a specific legal term in all states (one attorney in the state where I was charged told me he had never heard of the term 'court-supervised probation' as related to a First Offender Program in said state). But because of the vagueness of this term, as well as inconsistencies in different counties/states however, some people automatically consider a First Offender Program to be a court-supervised probation.

Long story short: my First Offender Program agreement paperwork doesn't say the words "probation", my lawyer doesn't think I was on this type of probation, but someone without specific legal knowledge of the jurisdiction could interpret my First Offender stipulation as a probation. 1) am I simply freaking myself out, 2) if no, is there anything I can do to front-foot the situation? I realize that negligence is not an excuse for dishonesty, but feel that I went to pretty significant lengths to determine if I needed to report my past (eg contacting original lawyer, paying new lawyer for opinion, reviewing all paperwork which I had access to) - but does that matter at all?


TL;DR: underage drinking misdemeanor dismissed by means of First Offender Program; reviewed paperwork (none w/ any reference to probation) + contacted attorney so felt ok answering "no" to question about court-supervised probation, but could terminology/interpretation mess me up with background check?


Thanks in advance -
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Re: Not your usual background check question [#permalink]

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New post 28 Mar 2017, 08:37
tossup8888 wrote:
Hi all - before you dismiss as "if you were honest on background check, you have nothing to worry about", I'm wondering if I was unintentionally dishonest regarding my criminal background.
tossup8888 Geez... I am stressed out reading this and it sounds like you are too! I am not sure what to say exactly here because I don't know all the details but I can say that I have reviewed thousands of B school applications and generally speaking these underage drinking situations don't become a big deal if he person admits they made a bad decision, shows remorse, gives an idea of how they learned and grew from it and has not had any other encounters with the law. So don't stress too much about the offense itself. I might have said from the start just disclose that and it usually is not an issue. Now that you did it this way- just try to always take the high road and I think it will all be ok. Good luck! And let other young people reading this be reminded that underage drinking is just not a good idea!
As "background", I received an underage drinking misdemeanor when I was in college. I hired a lawyer, entered a "first offender program" via a "deferred prosecution agreement" and the charges were voluntarily dismissed following a series of basic tasks (community service, alcohol class). On my official record, the charge is showed as "voluntarily dismissed - completed FOP" (First Offender Program).

I've never been too concerned with this on my record as any job related question asked about convictions. Further, when I started the MBA application process, I made sure (or so I thought) to honestly answer any questions about my legal blemish. For instance, some applications "have you ever been charged with a crime" or "have you ever entered a pre-trial diversion program" (I answered yes and felt no issue explaining my mistake and remorse - got interviews at both so wasn't a deal breaker obviously), but at the advice of my lawyer I did not "over share" (eg, no need to bring up charge if the question was only about conviction). Here's where the potential trouble starts....

The school which I am about to undergo a background check for asked their legal question in a strange fashion, specifically including a clause asking if I'd ever "been put on a court-supervised probation". Having reviewed my legal paperwork from my case years ago (specifically the First Offender agreement with the DA), there was never a reference to "probation". Further, I reached out to my original attorney from the case with the specific question, who told me that I was correct in responding no because I was "neither convicted nor put on supervised probation".

So why am I worried? In my paranoia about this background check, I have been reading up on the definition of "court-supervised probation" which it turns out is not a specific legal term in all states (one attorney in the state where I was charged told me he had never heard of the term 'court-supervised probation' as related to a First Offender Program in said state). But because of the vagueness of this term, as well as inconsistencies in different counties/states however, some people automatically consider a First Offender Program to be a court-supervised probation.

Long story short: my First Offender Program agreement paperwork doesn't say the words "probation", my lawyer doesn't think I was on this type of probation, but someone without specific legal knowledge of the jurisdiction could interpret my First Offender stipulation as a probation. 1) am I simply freaking myself out, 2) if no, is there anything I can do to front-foot the situation? I realize that negligence is not an excuse for dishonesty, but feel that I went to pretty significant lengths to determine if I needed to report my past (eg contacting original lawyer, paying new lawyer for opinion, reviewing all paperwork which I had access to) - but does that matter at all?


TL;DR: underage drinking misdemeanor dismissed by means of First Offender Program; reviewed paperwork (none w/ any reference to probation) + contacted attorney so felt ok answering "no" to question about court-supervised probation, but could terminology/interpretation mess me up with background check?


Thanks in advance -

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Donna | StratusMBACounselor | Stratus Admissions Counseling

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Re: Not your usual background check question   [#permalink] 28 Mar 2017, 08:37
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