Friends Son Has a Felony and Can't Get a Job. Advice?

Updated on February 23, 2014
S.C. asks from Arlington Heights, IL
17 answers

A friend of mine just called me n said that her son who is 19, turning 20 n has a felony and a misdemeanor on his record n is having a very difficult time getting a job. He was trying to become a fireman and now is so upset that he was told not to bother finishing going to college and that he is never going to be able to get work or a decent job. He has applied at about 20 places she stated and they deny him after they get the background check.
Not to get into all of her business but he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time n young n stupid. There was a health situation that was told to him n he took it very bad n just got into this situation. I'm not here to judge by all means. I think the system doesn't work for everyone and no rhyme or reason to what courts decide. But I guess the question is I'm trying to give her some advice on where to go to get answers for him so that he doesn't feel his life is over at 20. I said that he might try a few years from now to try n write the governor and try and get a pardon. Or maybe try and start his own business. If anyone out there has any advice or websites, people, attorneys to possibly talk to that would probably be helpful to them.

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Chicago on

There are organizations that will help him. Is there a local community organization that does job assistance? I know there are multiple organizations in the city that are dedicated to helping ex-felons get jobs. Maybe call them and ask for something more local?

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

These days many doors are closed to people who even are college degreed, have great education, good skills.It's life. He can take some cash paying jobs and build a background with good references. Never too late.

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers



answers from San Francisco on

I do backgrounds as my profession. He is in a bad position, but there is much he can do to get things on the right track. You will hear from HR people too and they may have some ideas from the other side.

Not sure what the laws are in your state, but in California we can only go back 7yrs. from date of conviction. He may not have a chance to be a fireman due to his conviction though. Police, fire, teachers, doctors, etc. are held to a high standard and the smallest thing can keep them from these jobs.

He needs to find out if he can have this case expunged. Normally he would have to go to court and ask that the felony be reduced to a misd. and then ask for a record clearance. He can do this himself or hire an attorney to do it. I can NOT report on cases that have been expunged and often this can happen pretty quickly.

He needs to keep his nose clean and show that he is on the straight an narrow. This is often a means of giving a person a chance after making some bad decisions. He can call the court he was convicted in to get info. and get the ball rolling.

It's so sad when a bad decision can derail a dream, but that is the fact in this situation. I wish him luck. You can ping me if you'd like any further input.

13 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Having a son that is 24 and in the same position, there are no easy answers. Persistence is the only advice you can give him. No one can fix it for him, no one can make his past go away.
He absolutely positively MUST be 100% honest on any and all job applications. Google is his nemesis now. You can google my sons full name and he takes the top 4 spots. Going to college is a great idea, if he has that opportunity he should pursue it.
The jobs won't be glamorous, they won't be high paying at first, but he has to start somewhere.
There are places that will hire your friends son but like I said, it's going take more effort than the average person to get that job.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

First of all, he should continue in school. It will only help him in the long run.

Second, he needs so start somewhere! And by somewhere, I mean the bottom. Work on an assembly line, work in the mail room - a union position that pays minimum wage. Work, do a GREAT job and work your way up. Assuming he has not killed anyone or is a child predator, he will move up. Small/mid-sized companies only look so far back (usually 7 years) so keep with it.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Your friend's son needs to stop making excuses for his past. He needs to man-up and be upfront with potential employers. they should NOT be finding out about his record during a background investigation.

He needs to finish school.

I doubt very seriously he will be able to get a job as a police officer or fire fighter. They are held to higher standards and expectations.

He can hire a lawyer and find out what can be done since he was a teenager at the time of the offense. He really needs to take accountability for his actions. His mom needs to stop coddling him. There are jobs out there. He just needs to get some education under his belt and be honest about his past and stupidity. We were all young once and we've made mistakes. He has to pay for his stupidity for a while longer than most.

Tell him to stop making excuses. Self-pity only goes so far then he needs to take action. He's a man now. Start acting like it.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

There aren't any doors closed to him. You're getting third hand info at best - and his little lies are showing through. Why are his potential employers not finding out about his record until after the background check?

We've all made mistakes, but his excuses of "don't finish college" and "never gonna get a job" are BS. He's lazy and is using his past crimes as his present excuse.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

In CA, there is a criminal statute that allows for the reduction of a felony to a misdemeanor in most cases. Some felonies cannot be reduced. In CA it is Penal Code section 1203.4 which allows for most felonies to be reduced to misdemeanors and the case dismissed. Again, some felonies can't be reduced, but they can still be dismissed. The fact of the arrest and conviction remains on his record, but they add the fact of the relief to the record as well. A consult with a criminal defense attorney in your state will tell you whether there is a similar statute there.

The more time that passes, the less his criminal history will be a problem, so his situation will get better over time, but that doesn't help him now.

I wouldn't even worry about a pardon - those are very few and far between and governors don't usually grant them unless it is like the last thing they do before leaving office. I doubt he'll get anywhere with that.

He may want to obtain a copy of the police report pertaining to the felony. If it is clear that he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, he may want to consider attaching a copy of the police report to his application so the prospective employer can see for himself/herself what his actual culpability was.

His life is definitely not over at age 20. It will be a little tougher, but it is doable!

9 moms found this helpful


answers from New Orleans on

I have worked running programs for young adults and have worked with programs that help troubled young adults. First and foremost advice any of these programs give is "finish your education". He needs to get a college degree. At least a BA, if not a masters He needs to go talk to the guidance counselors at his college, lay it all out for them, and let them help him pick a course of study.

He will, most likely, not be able to obtain a civil job. But he could go talk to the local volunteer firefighters - they may take him on. He needs to realize that finding a job will be harder for him than for his peers. But, he will find one eventually. It may suck, but it will provide a, possibly nominal, paycheck and, most importantly, a work history. He needs to reach out to adults that he knows and see if any of them will provide him with an internship - doesn't have to be paid - just has to provide work experience and build that responsible citizen "card", and provide him a good reference.

He will have to prove, over and over again, that he is responsible and his conviction was a one off; a result of a youthful indiscretion. I know that in my state, one time offenders, with the offense being committed under a certain age, can, after a time, apply to have their record expunged. He needs to look into this.

He needs the encouragement of those around. He needs to be told to ignore and stay from anyone telling him to give up. Sorry, but true - anyone who would tell a struggling young adult that their life is over and worthless is, to me, a worthless person.

Most importantly, he needs to realize that he is so very young still. He has decades ahead of him and many people have overcome worse odds than his. Find some real life success stories for him to draw strength and courage from.

While he has stumbled on his path - his path, and his future, still stretch out before him.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Well some doors are closed to him, but that doesn't mean that he should not finish college or that he will never get a job. He may just have to reassess what he can do and work towards that. It's not going to be easy, but it's not impossible to achieve.
Any jobs in law enforcement, fire fighting or education are probably out of the question. These are positions with a certain authority and you work with vulnerable people... I am fairly certain that will preclude anyone with a felony.

But there are MANY other fields where his criminal past is unlikely to be a burden that cannot be overcome. He should be upfront with employers on his record. I just went a through a phase of job applications and pretty much every application form I have ever filled out asks whether you have a criminal record... before they conduct any background checks. If he lies on the application forms only for the employer to go through the time intensive and costly interview process to find out during the background check... OF COURSE he doesn't get the job!

To me it sounds like he doing and whole lot of whining and BS'ing his mother. He should see a career counselor at his college to figure out which careers are a good option for him and how to best deal with his record when applying for a job.
Good luck.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I agree with him finishing school. That will show he is serious about his future. Being a fireman may be out due to their strict standards. He might be able to be a volunteer fireman though. He might try working for a small company - maybe a mom & pop type thing. Even yardwork. At least that will get him a reference and a work history. He will have to start at the bottom and work up. But he can do it if he is willing to keep trying and working on it.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

No he cannot become a firefighter. Someone should have told him that before he started the process. He should be able to get a job, might not be the best but he can always,prove himself and move up. Not sure who he could talk to. Possibly someone in the PD could guide him if he has not gotten I to any more trouble and is willing to accept a not so great job.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

There are many employers hiring ex-felons. A good website is

What is available may not be the type of job your friend's son wants, but with so many people trying to get any job these days, he should focus on finding any honest work.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

many doors are now closed to him. it's a pity.
but not all of them. he is not doomed by any means.
first and foremost, he needs to finish college. that will open a good few doors that would otherwise be firmly shut.
he needs to re-evaluate his prospects. being a firefighter is off the table. if that was a big dream, he should mourn it and move on.
he needs to be completely honest about the felony on his job applications, and to apply for jobs that he has a reasonable chance of getting in order to cut down on the number of depressing declines. he won't be able to get a job that deals with money, or security, or kids, or the elderly. he needs to be realistic, and probably to work with an employment counselor. he also needs to consider what his skills are and if he can parlay them into a start-up business of his own.
pardons are unlikely. not a terrible idea to try, but his energies are much better expended into bettering his prospects.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

Why are the potential employers finding out about his criminal past through background checks? That's the worst way for them to find out.

I have some consumers I've helped that have criminal backgrounds who have tried to get jobs and housing and didn't disclose in the applications that they had a criminal background let alone a felony history or even poor credit. They got their hopes up because they built a rapport with the person accepting the application, who would also make the decision to hire or give housing. And then they were refused not because of the criminal background, but because they didn't disclose in the application and soften the blow by giving their side of the story. They didn't warn the employer or landlord what the background check might turn up. Therefore, don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.

What your friend's son needs to do is get over himself and stop feeling sorry for himself because he's not a victim. He has to build trust and skills and prove himself to society and I think that's entirely fair considering he did make bad enough choices that a jury convicted him of a felony. It's going to take work, hard work, but he wants it to be easy and handed to him because in his mind he "served his time." He still has his paces to go through. This is his challenge. We all have challenges.

If he's the one with health problems, he needs to find out if they qualify legally as disabilities and he could get some help from the Department of Rehabilitation Services which can help with job skills and finding him a job. They can get him a counselor that helps him through the process of finding a job and learning how/when to disclose his status as an ex-con and his rights and how/when to disclose a disability and his rights about that. It's not going to be easy. That doesn't mean his life is over.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Car dealerships will usually hire him too, and I know the city of Seattle can't use background checks against you initially, there was a law passed about it last year. I think they can't run one until they've interviewed you, so they can get a glimpse of why they like you and how you'd fit in, before blindly judging you because of a piece of paper. And if it was all before he was 18, he may be able to have his juvenile records sealed.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions