How Criminal and Traffic Charges in Virginia Can Affect Your Security Clearance

Security Clearance Is Needed for Many Government Jobs in VirginiaAny conviction for reckless driving, DUI, and other more serious felony crimes in Fairfax or Northern Virginia can result in harsh penalties, such as a jail or prison sentence, large fines, probation, and driver’s license suspension. In addition, a conviction of a misdemeanor or felony will result in an individual having a permanent criminal record that can affect his ability to obtain employment, housing, loans, and more. When working for the federal government, being arrested or convicted of a crime can have even more serious consequences—it may result in the loss of a security clearance that is necessary a government job.

Types of Security Clearances

A security clearance is required for a person or business to have access to classified information when working for the federal government. A number of governmental agencies deal with classified information that requires security clearances. The Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, and Department of State are a few. There are three levels of security clearance:

  • Confidential. A confidential security clearance is the most basic one and allows access to information that may cause measurable damage to national security. To obtain this clearance, a person must go through a background check that includes checking his criminal, education, and employment records. It must be renewed every 15 years.
     
  • Secret. This is a mid-range security clearance that allows access to materials that may cause grave damage to national security. The same type of background check as for a confidential security clearance is required, but it must be reinvestigated every 10 years.
     
  • Top secret. A top-secret clearance allows access to information that may cause disastrous damage to national security. Besides the background check done for secret and confidential clearances, this will involve a field check, Single Scope Background Investigation, and a possible polygraph test. A top-secret clearance is reinvestigated every five years.

Who Needs a Security Clearance?

It is not only employees of the federal government that need security clearances, but also those who work with the government on specific jobs. Here are some of the individuals who may need some level of clearance:

  • Military personnel
     
  • Federal employees working in the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs
     
  • Federal agency employees, such as the FBI, CIA, FCC, and EPA
     
  • Defense contractors
     
  • Employees in other professions working with the government, such as those in the medical, telecommunications, education, and financial fields

How a Criminal Arrest or Conviction May Affect Your Security Clearance

When evaluating a person for a security clearance or renewal of one, a number of factors will be considered pertaining to his character, honesty, trustworthiness, loyalty, reliability, and financial stability. While a traffic, DUI, or other criminal conviction may not automatically disqualify a person, they would be taken into consideration and may be a problem, especially if there are other troubling factors. Criminal conduct that may raise concerns under security clearance guidelines includes:

  • A pattern of minor offenses
     
  • Evidence of criminal conduct, such as a credible allegation, an admission, or information that is of public records, whether the person was charged or convicted
     
  • Being on parole or probation
     
  • Violation or revocation of probation
     
  • Failure to complete a court-ordered rehabilitation program

There is no hard and fast rule on how your arrest or conviction may affect your security clearance. However, here is some guidance:

  • A criminal conviction that results in a jail or prison sentence for a year or more may disqualify you.
     
  • A first offense DUI may not prevent you from obtaining a security clearance, but a felony DUI, subsequent DUI offense, or repeated alcohol abuse may be problematic.
     
  • A first charge of reckless driving would most likely not prevent you from obtaining a security clearance, but a second or third conviction, especially if there are other traffic offenses, may be disqualifying.
     
  • Unlawful use or addiction to controlled substances may be reviewed harshly.
     
  • Being arrested for prostitution may raise questions about whether you may be susceptible to blackmail.
     
  • Crimes involving dishonesty, like theft or embezzlement, may be grounds for denial of a security clearance.

If you have been charged with a traffic, DUI, or other crime in Fairfax or Northern Virginia, our experienced criminal defense attorneys can explain how your charges may affect your security clearance and how we will aggressively fight to get the charges dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. Call our Fairfax office to schedule your free consultation today.