Past Drug Charges Follow Convicted Felons

David Lindsey, Attorney at Law

By David Lindsey Attorney of David Lindsey, Attorney at Law posted in Drug Charges on Tuesday, January 24, 2012.

In a New York Times op-ed this last week, contributors Alfred Blumenstein and Kiminori Nakamura detailed the struggles faced by convicted felons as they try to move on with, and improve, their lives. Past drug charges follow these defendants long after they serve their time.

They cite the story of Darrell Langdon as an example; Mr. Langdon found that he could not get a job as a boiler room engineer for Chicago Public Schools because of a 1985 conviction for possession of a half-gram of cocaine, a felony for which he received, and served, probation. Mr. Langdon, a single father who has remained clean and out of trouble with the law since 1988, was offered a job after a story in the Chicago Tribune raised a public outcry.

Langdon’s story is the exception, however; according to the authors, a “stunning number of young people are arrested for crimes in this country, and those crimes can haunt them for the rest of their lives”. A felony conviction can mean exclusion from public housing and welfare assistance, leading to poverty and a life on the streets, and increasing the likelihood of recidivism. The majority of states even allow hiring decisions to be made on the basis of an arrest alone.

Many of these arrests are a result of the ongoing war on drugs, which disproportionately targets young men of color. The real problem, the authors claim, is state and local rules that restrict employment for the rest of an individual’s life. They propose that these “forever rules” be replaced by rules that provide for an expiration of a criminal record. A number of states have already placed limits on the availability of old criminal records; a new Massachusetts law, which takes effect in May, will limit access to misdemeanor records for five years, and felony records for ten.

At my Denver law firm, I represent people facing serious criminal charges in state and federal courts throughout Colorado and Wyoming.

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