Will I lose my job if I get arrested?

Losing your job may be one of the most serious consequences that can result from an arrest, and it’s often completely legal. Virginia and North Carolina are at-will employment states, meaning most employers can terminate an employee for any reason — including an arrest.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll automatically lose your job if you get arrested. Instead, the outcome depends on a wide range of factors. Contact the criminal defense attorneys with Select Law Partners, PLLC at (855) 541-4867 to learn how we can help protect your rights and interests.

Job loss is more likely in certain careers

If your career field is highly regulated, such as those involving professional licensure, then you might be at a higher risk of losing your job after an arrest.

For example, in Virginia, applications for the initial issuance or reinstatement of a nursing license require that the applicant disclose their criminal history, including DUI charges and convictions. Failure to report those charges or convictions can result in disciplinary action. If the applicant doesn’t disclose their criminal history, then it’s up to the board to decide if disciplinary action should be taken — including license revocation or suspension.

Likewise, if you’re employed with the federal government in a position requiring a security clearance, an arrest may trigger an investigation that could result in your job loss. Military personnel and employees of federal agencies and executive departments, such as the Department of State or the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are particularly vulnerable to job loss in these situations.

The nature of the crime often makes a difference

The specific offense you were arrested for can play a role in whether or not you’ll lose your job. While some employers may immediately dismiss an employee after any type of arrest, others may be more lenient and consider the individual’s circumstances before making a decision. There’s no guarantee that you won’t be fired, but your chances of keeping your job may be higher in certain cases.

If you were arrested for a “minor” offense like disorderly conduct, contempt of court, or loitering, your employer might be more likely to take a lenient approach and decide not to take action — especially if your record is otherwise clean. On the other hand, an arrest for a more serious offense like battery, fraud, or illegal drug possession may be less likely to be forgiven.

The outcome may also depend on whether the offense is directly related to your job. For instance, a bus driver who’s arrested for DUI is more likely to be fired than a bus driver who’s arrested for theft. Again, it’s up to your employer to decide, but many are likely to draw a hard line when it comes to crimes that could affect their business.

Your employer's policies may affect the outcome

Many businesses have specific policies outlining what disciplinary action is taken after an employee faces an arrest or conviction. Some may temporarily suspend an employee pending the outcome of a trial, while others may have a “zero tolerance” policy that requires immediate termination for any type of arrest. If your employer has these types of policies in place, they’ll be located in the employee handbook or your employment contract.

Other policies may protect an employee from being fired or disciplined for an arrest. For instance, unions may have rules that prevent employers from taking action until the employee’s criminal case is resolved. Additionally, if you’re a contract-based employee with a predetermined period of employment, your contract may prevent your employer from firing you before the end of your fixed term.

Our criminal defense lawyers can help

An arrest won’t always have an impact on your employment, but a conviction likely will. The best way to protect your career prospects is to consult with a criminal defense attorney who can help you challenge the charges and minimize the potential consequences.

At Select Law Partners, PLLC, we understand the gravity of your situation and work diligently to protect your rights, freedom, and future opportunities. Our criminal defense lawyers practice across North Carolina and Virginia and have extensive experience defending clients against a variety of charges. Contact us at (855) 541-4867 to schedule a consultation and learn more about your legal options.