When people are convicted of a crime, they serve their punishment in the form of probation or incarceration, and then they are released back into society to live as a productive law abiding citizen in society. That is the idea behind the rehabilitation theory in the criminal justice system. However, not all citizens that are convicted of crimes and released are given a second chance by society, particularly in the job market. There are countless stories of people with criminal records not being able to get job that they are otherwise well qualified for solely because of their criminal history.
Criminal defense attorney Jeff Hammerschmidt has to think of the repercussions that his clients face when charged with a crime:
There are a large number of people who get charged with and convicted of one crime in their lifetime. For most of these people, especially those with professional licenses, the collateral consequences of the conviction far outweigh the penalty for the crime. In California most of the lower level criminal convictions can be expunged if the person performs perfectly on probation. Unfortunately, expungement does not exist in the federal system.
While some state court convictions may qualify for expungement, the decision is still ultimately that of the judge. In the federal court system, there are only three reasons that allow a judge to consider expungement. A federal conviction can be expunged if the law based on the conviction was found to be unconstitutional, the government engaged in misconduct, or certain drug offenses if defendant was under the age of 21. Federal District Judge John Gleeson received a request for an expungement from a woman he had previously convicted but denied her request. Her criminal history was preventing her from becoming employed, but he found a unique way to help her. He wrote what he calls a “Federal Certificate of Rehabilitation,” a form which has no legal effect, but is a voucher from the Judge regarding the character and rehabilitation of the woman. This certificate was based on the woman’s individual circumstances, and was issued because her conviction was her first and only crime, and she had complied with all the terms of the court.
The issuance of a Federal Certificate of Rehabilitation acts as a show of forgiveness by the court, giving those who took their rehabilitation seriously a second chance. This is the precise concept behind rehabilitation, and allows one-time offenders a chance to truly reform without, suffering collateral consequences such as inability to secure employment.