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Thursday, September 10, 2009

In the US, you may be a convicted felon and not know it

While applying for a job last week, I was surprised that I got turned down for having a felony criminal conviction. The surprise for me was that I don’t have a felony conviction. I was arrested and charged with misdemeanour theft and one felony count of theft, in 1980. But those charges were dropped. So I was surprised to see that these charges were listed on a Kansas Bureau of Investigation report as having resulted in convictions.

Any felony charge would prevent me from taking a number of jobs I have been interested in. So I was very upset when I realized that potential employers were getting this report that said I was a convicted felon.

When I contacted the KBI, they explained that the got the report from the Kansas Courthouse where these charges were filed. When I contacted the courthouse and went through several secretaries of various offices, I was finally told they couldn’t comment on the report unless I had the case number. Why would I have kept the court case file numbers to cases that had been settled 29 years ago? And how did the KBI get this misinformation without the case numbers?

I still don’t have answers to all of this. I assume some clerk made a mistake. It just so happens it could cost me my career and reputation. The KBI promised they would check on the matter as they told me they want their reports to be accurate and had no intention of sending out misinformation on people. That is about the only good news that came out of this mess. I haven’t found a lawyer willing to sue the State of Kansas for libel against me, even though that is clearly what they did.

“It’s hard to sue the State of Kansas,” one lawyer told me.

So my best bet is to physically go to the courthouse where these charges were filed and straighten this mess out myself. I hope the KBI goes through with their plans to fix their report.

It doesn’t surprise me that someone working for the State of Kansas can be that incompetent. That just goes with the political territory here. It also shows how ridiculous it is to hold a 30 year old conviction against someone when the people in charge of the files can’t even keep up on them.

“Those cases are very old,” a spokesperson at the courthouse told me as if I were trying to dig up ancient records.

But these charges normally stick to a person for life. Obviously a person who would commit a felony theft in his/her mid 20s is not likely to remain the same type of person 20 years later. People change. They usually mature between their twenties and fifties. But don’t tell our politicians or the ignorant people who support a lifetime punishment for a youthful mistake.

In other words don’t confuse these people with the facts. They’ve already made up their narrow minds and don’t want to be bothered logical ideas.

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