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Engineering Security Clearance in Aero/Mech industry w/ a criminal background (but not a conviction)

  1. Mar 30, 2017 #1
    I have a bachelor's in aerospace engineering, and currently doing my masters in mechanical&aerospace. I would like to work in the aerospace industry upon graduation.

    I am interested in companies such as Space X, Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed, NASA, etc... and I presume most of these would require a security clearance of some sort?

    I was involved in a non-physical altercation (argument) with my ex-girlfriend last year and was charged with several misdemeanors, including domestic violence. She called the police on me and I was arrested. The probable cause of my arrest and for my criminal charges are based on HER words alone according to the police report. The state I was arrested in has enacted some very strict domestic violence laws in the recent decade due to an unfortunate accident that occurred about a decade ago. The state law mandates that someone must be arrested and charged with domestic violence regardless of what happened and what evidence is present. If 911 is called in a domestic relations situation, someone is going to jail and will be criminally changed with domestic violence; there is no exception. The district attorney in charge of my case was about to dismiss the case; however, the alleged victim pressured/convinced him into prosecuting me and we had to take the matter to trial. I was considering hiring a criminal defense attorney, but opted not to. At trial, I pled the 5th and did not testify.

    In domestic violence cases in my state, the alleged victim has a lot of say when it comes to not dismissing a case. I was acquitted at jury trial of all charges. I also had no criminal history prior to this incident.

    Even though I was acquitted, I was reading that a lot of companies will not hire you if you have any kind of criminal background, especially with something like domestic violence, even if there's been on conviction. I read that dismissed charges and "not guilty" verdicts are still viewed by some employers as if that person did commit the crime. I also read that criminal charges can lead to denial of security clearance.

    Does anyone have insight in the prospects of getting hired in the aerospace industry with a criminal background? A lot of the things I read are really demoralizing.

    During any job interview, I'm sure I would have to disclose this and possibly answer questions. I feel like anyone with a criminal history would advocate their innocent, so I don't see the point in doing this because no one is going to know if I'm innocent or not. So if am I asked to explain myself, I wouldn't even know how to about it. Of course I would like to advocate my innocence, but I feel like everyone does this and it wouldn't help me.

    I have the option of having my arrest and previous charges sealed/expunged by the court, but I don't know how helpful this would be since I think the really thorough background checks will still pick up sealed records.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 31, 2017 #2
    Check the laws of your state. In many cases, you only have to disclose convictions, so there may not be any duty to disclose arrests and prosecutions.

    There are jobs with the companies you list that do not require security clearances. Depending on the nature of the background check, the arrest and prosecution may or may not get flagged.

    In many cases, applicants do not even authorize a background check before the interview. You might simply answer honestly on the application paperwork that you have no criminal convictions. The arrest may never be mentioned. In the unlikely event it is mentioned, you could simply answer, "I was not guilty of the crime, and the jury found me not guilty. I've been advised not to speak further about the case."

    i'd go ahead and apply for whatever jobs of interest you are qualified for.
  4. Mar 31, 2017 #3
    So I was arrested, charged, and prosecuted in my home state. I go to school in another state. And the places I would like to work for aren't in either of these states.

    I thought most applications would ask "Have you ever been arrested or charged with a crime?"
    I was reading that some applicants go to an interview and get offered the job (before they even do a background check). Then a background check comes back showing some kind of criminal history and the offer is withdrawn.

    It will still be a couple of years before I start applying for jobs, but I am just anxious that none of these companies would be interested in me.
  5. Mar 31, 2017 #4


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    Education Advisor

    The following websites may be applicable to your situation.



    My suggestions to you, based on the Web articles above, are the following:

    1. Pay to see your FBI rap sheet entered from your original state, to make sure there all information is accurate.

    2. Speak to an attorney to have your record (which includes not just convictions, but also arrests) expunged or sealed. In this way, your record will not show up on a background check.

    3. If a security clearance is required, be open and upfront to the employer about your circumstance.
  6. Mar 31, 2017 #5
    Thank you. I will check out the links. I don't think I can have it expunged. I believe expungement is only for crimes during the juvenile years. I can have it sealed, however when a background check is run, they will see the "seal," which indicates something happened.

    I am concerned about the being open and upfront part with my employer. I feel like my story is going to sound like everybody else's: I was innocent and was acquitted. But who's going to believe a stranger who is trying to get a job?
  7. Mar 31, 2017 #6


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    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Honesty is the best policy. I don't know about routine background checks, but for a government security clearance, your arrest record will definitely come up (both in the initial application and in the interview). If you lie about it on your application or at any other point, they won't hire you, and they probably won't ever consider you again for a security clearance.
  8. Mar 31, 2017 #7
    I see. This is what I read as well. The judge informed me that if I seal my case, I can legally and "correctly" answer "no" to the question "Have you ever been charged or arrested." But if I answer no, and they find out I sealed my arrest record, isn't this lying?
  9. Mar 31, 2017 #8


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    Staff: Mentor

    No, they typically ask something like "Have you ever been convicted of a crime beyond a minor traffic offense."

    I would think it would be illegal (a violation of your right to be considered innocent unless proven guilty) to ask if you have ever been arrested:
  10. Mar 31, 2017 #9
    Ah intersting. Sorry haven't had a chance to check out the links yet.
    Is asking "Have you been charged?" also illegal based on the "innocent until proven guilty?" I vibe that I got from reading links I found on google is that people think you're guilty until proven innocent even if the charges were dismissed. Since being found "not guilty" at trial doesn't necessarily mean "innocent," people could still think the worst.
  11. Mar 31, 2017 #10


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    Gold Member

    For a government clearance (at least in the US), they will absolutely ask if you've been arrested. Reading straight off the SF86:
    Declaration of arrest records/court appearances extends back 7 years for secret clearances and 10+ years for top secret clearances. Declaration of any conviction ever is mandatory.
    Edit: sorry, arrests and convictions of misdemeanors are 7/10+ years, convictions of felonies/imprisonment are permanent.
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2017
  12. Mar 31, 2017 #11


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    Gold Member

    One of the most important things to keep in mind about a security clearance is that they are trying to establish how trustworthy you are. One of the main features of this is knowing whether an adversary can blackmail you. Thus, being open about certain unsavory aspects of your former life is far better than trying to conceal them.

    But again, for a routine background check that doesn't require handling of sensitive information, I'm not sure what the procedures are.
  13. Mar 31, 2017 #12


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    Staff: Mentor

    I stand corrected -- what I posted appears to apply to typical civilian jobs, but I can see why for security clearances, they would want to know anything that might be blackmail-able. Different criteria.
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