This is a guest post from Aaron Hall, a business attorney at Thompson Hall.
Those who have been charged or convicted of a crime may be concerned about how their record could affect their ability to start a business. A new entrepreneur may worry that the public records maintained by the courts will continue to haunt them. Fortunately, for most entrepreneurs, a criminal record will have little, if any, effect on their ability to start a business.
When starting a business, entrepreneurs typically hire an attorney to determine the best course of action and to ensure the legal requirements are satisfied. Among other things, attorneys will assist in completing the proper state and federal fillings and in obtaining tax identification numbers. This process is not affected by a criminal record. As a matter of public policy, the government seeks to avoid recidivism and encourages those with a criminal background to become productive members of society. Unless there are specific reasons a person with a criminal background should not be able to conduct a business or a specific field of business, society wants people to contribute to job creation and economic growth.
Businesses that Require Licenses
Obviously there are certain types of businesses that require a license, and the licensing process is strict regarding criminal convictions. These include professions such as:
- Medicine and Law (physicians and attorneys)
- Businesses operating with dangerous chemicals
- Other regulated merchandise like firearms
If you are seriously considering venturing into these or similar areas, a few extra requirements may need to be satisfied, if entry is at all permissible. But for most businesses, there are no special licensing requirements that would prohibit those who have a criminal record.
Criminal Sexual Conduct Charges
For those with a record of criminal sexual conduct, there are special challenges. Initially, they may need to have their business located a certain distance from schools or other, similarly classified establishments. They may need to register and disclose their location on a public sex registration list. They may not be able to start a business that requires contact with children. However, the specific business industries which are affected by these limitations are fairly obvious and many others are available for pursuit.
The final consideration is public relations. Before the internet, accessing public records required more time and effort. These days, more and more public records are being published online. As a result, business owners need to be conscious of their online reputation. Fortunately, ease of access also provides for ease of management. Thus, addressing problems with online reputation can be done by saturating the internet with positive material, or even neutral material, about you and your business. As a business continues to dedicate attention to elevating its online reputation, the online reputation will eventually become permeated with positive business activities.
Starting a business can be even more useful than becoming employed at a job for the purpose of rehabilitating an online reputation. Starting a business will often create more positive online material than regular employment, burying negative public information about a criminal record.
Don’t let a criminal record hold you back. You can start most business ideas despite a criminal background. In addition, your activities as an entrepreneur will help your online reputation and help build your own professional credentials.
Aaron Hall is a Minneapolis business attorney experienced in helping companies and individuals with complex litigation and business matters.