Employment Guide: Underage citations could hamper job search

By Tegan Hanlon

Police sirens can kill the buzz at any college party, but especially at ones where the guests… Police sirens can kill the buzz at any college party, but especially at ones where the guests are younger than 21 and intoxicated.

Besides the immediate repurcussions of an underage-drinking citation and possible penalties from Pitt, having a criminal record could hurt students’ job searches.

“If you are looking to apply to medical or law school and let’s say there is someone else equally qualified, they might look at something like that [underage],” Worgul said. “That could be the deciding factor.”

Worgul said that people have come to him with past offenses they need to get erased to obtain a job.

Pittsburgh attorney Frank Walker, who handles underage cases from students at Pitt, Duquesne, Robert Morris and Carlow, said that a citation can have a detrimental effect on students’ financial futures, as well.

“Students don’t realize the effects it has on their search for job,” he said.

In the law field, Walker said summary offenses such as underage citations could pose a problem when taking the bar exam, which asks test-takers if they’ve been convicted of any crimes.

“You may think in your mind you don’t have to report it — I was a minor,” Walker said. “It will appear to them if you answer ‘no’ that you were somewhat evasive.”

The general consensus seems to be that the specific employer is the deciding factor as to how much a college drinking citation will affect job applicants.

“Some employers don’t care, some do,” Pitt police spokesman Ron Bennett said. “A government employer would care.”

To keep citations off one’s record, Bennett advises cited students to hire an attorney, even though the citation process does not normally require one.

Worgul is currently representing a Pitt student, who initially went alone to the magistrate and could not get the citation off the record. The next step is an appeal.

“A benefit of hiring an attorney if you get an underage drinking citation is that most attorneys that practice in Pittsburgh sort of know the tendencies of a lot of magistrates,” Worgul said.

Under the law, a defendant must wait five years before applying to have his record expunged if he is found guilty of a crime. Worgul advises his clients to try to get their charges dismissed to avoid the long waiting period. The process comes with a lot of paperwork.

To help students avoid magistrates, paperwork and fines, the Career Development Office is currently working on partnering with Student Health to provide some education on the possible employment barriers that come along with underage citations, said Career Development Associate Director Barbara Juliussen.

“They absolutely affect students looking into the field of education and working for the government where they perform extensive background checks,” Juliussen said. “It is an issue.”

Juliussen said the project is still in the research phase.

“Knowing ahead of time could keep kids from getting in trouble,” Juliussen said.

Walker, the attorney, had some closing advice for keeping out of trouble: If you are going to get arrested, at least use your manners.

“The only problems that really come up are when students are jerks — for a lack of a better word — when being arrested and get into it with the officer,” Walker said. “The officer has to do his or her job. Being a nice person goes a long way.”