Who needs to know I went to jail?
October 6, 2008 9:26 PM   Subscribe

Who needs to know that I was in jail tonight?

I'm embarrassed by the whole thing because it was for an old outstanding ticket I forgot about. I'd never been arrested before and it felt like a movie, with the phone call, booking, etc.

Anyway, I missed a good amount of work earlier this year due to a hospital stay, and now I'll have to use vacation time to go to court.

Should I level with my boss? Also, is there anyone else that should know I went to jail? Would anyone find out without me telling them?
posted by AloneOssifer to Law & Government (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This isn't really "going to jail." I don't think there is any stigma associated with this if you are young. Several of my friends "went to jail" under these circumstances. I'd tell people on a need to know basis, and tell your boss that your court date is jury duty.
posted by Crotalus at 9:34 PM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

You can just say you're fighting a ticket in court (which is sort of true, right?) - no need to create gossip for no reason. People talk; no reason to have them talking about your stint in jail.
posted by Dasein at 9:36 PM on October 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

Should I level with my boss?

Sure. While you're at it, why don't you just tell your boss that you're a complete flake, unreliable, and will possibly have other run-ins with the law that will impact your ability to do your job.

NO! It's none of your boss's business. Make up a GOOD excuse. Further, you should know your court date well in advance, so make sure you let your boss know far ahead of time that you'll need that day off.

is there anyone else that should know I went to jail?

If there is some legal question involved you should talk to a lawyer. Otherwise keep it to yourself. You may have been taken in on a "innoncent misunderstanding" but even mentioning it will create doubts in the minds of some people. Were you really taken in for an old ticket? Or is there something else you're not telling us? See what I mean?

Would anyone find out without me telling them?

Not unless you live in some small town backwater where the local Tractor Shopper run's the weekly police blotter.
posted by wfrgms at 9:36 PM on October 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

Can't you just say you have a court date because of "this old outstanding traffic ticket you forgot about"? "Yeah, it's a big hassle; I spaced on taking care of the ticket and now I have to show up in court", if they ask for more information. Seems like the fact that you spent some time in jail shouldn't even have to come up in a work or casual social situation.
posted by rossination at 9:37 PM on October 6, 2008 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: True, Crotalus. (I certainly wasn't in a federal PMITA prison) FWIW, I was in a holding cell for about three hours or so.
posted by AloneOssifer at 9:37 PM on October 6, 2008

and tell your boss that your court date is jury duty
Don't do this. A lot of workplaces give you paid time off for jury duty that doesn't count against your vacation or sick time. Lying about jury duty would seem like a good way to get fired in that case. I don't think you have to tell your boss what's going on. Just take a vacation/personal day and don't tell anyone what it's for.
posted by Airhen at 9:38 PM on October 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

I heard arrests or police investigations show up in background checks. That's probably something that'll affect future employment.

If you're in jail for a traffic ticket, I wouldn't feel the need to bring it up unless your position is one that requires you to. You wouldn't tell your boss you got a traffic ticket.

It's going to be a matter of public record though. If there was a warrant for your arrest you didn't know about, it might be floating around somewhere. Who knows, where do you live?

Maybe you wanna just drop by a criminal lawyers office to find out the effect of something like this.

Or if you don't want to do that, you might just tell your boss, "Say, I know I've been taking some time off this year and I'm sorry but I'll need to take some vacation time to clear up some legal matters in court." The boss might ask if it's jury duty. "No, not jury duty, I just have to go to court because I forgot to deal with a ticket."

Maybe throw in, "Would you believe they sent me to jail?" - if you're on good terms, you both can have a chuckle and he'll ask about life in jail. I work with really uptight people though, and they'd never understand, so I would leave that jail part out.

Especially if your jail time is in the past and you face no future jailtime. Otherwise it would be really awkward to call in and explain why you have to be in jail for another 30 days. You make it sound like you're dealing with a low level misdemeanor here, so I can't imagine that would be an issue.

If it's a crime involving theft or something of moral turpitude, then I would feel obligated to bring it up though, since its the kind of thing that matters to employers and licensing boards. No one wants a thief or a fraud working for them.

But otherwise, who volunteers such information? It's your boss, not your parents or your spouse.
posted by abdulf at 9:42 PM on October 6, 2008

Best answer: Just take a vacation day. If you give enough advance notice, why does your boss need to know the reason?
posted by grouse at 9:45 PM on October 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

"Hey, Boss, I have to go to court to deal with an old traffic ticket. I'll need to miss about X days/hours of work. If you could let me know on which days in the next 2 weeks my absence will be the least counterproductive I would appreciate it; I will try to get the court to schedule my hearing, etc. for those times and I will let you know when I will be out as soon as possible. I realize we're in a busy season/down economy/middle of an important project and I will plan to come in on Saturdays for the next 3 weeks to make sure my work is up to date and I'm keeping on top of things. Thank you."
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:47 PM on October 6, 2008

I heard arrests or police investigations show up in background checks.

My SO worked for a while for a background screening company, so he knows about how this stuff works! I asked him to give some info about it:

"Whether an arrest record will follow you in a background check will depend on a number of things: 1) the county in which you were arrested and how they report records to criminal databases; 2) what resources your employer/whoever uses to make the background check. Most employers use a national database product that they purchase from some vendor. If the county or local jurisdiction reports to the databases incorporated in the national database product, then your employer's background screening company will probably find it. If they don't report, then they won't.

Most local and municipal courts/law enforcement agencies report to a state repository of criminal records. In order to determine whether the jurisdiction where you were arrested reports arrests to the state repository, call the law enforcement in that jurisdiction and ask for their records department. Someone should be able to tell you if arrests are reported to state repositories. Arrest records usually maintained for many years at the local level, even if they are not sent to the state. So, if someone is being really thorough -- like a PI or a lawyer -- then, so long as the records have been maintained by the jurisdiction, they can be retrieved.

Under the federal fair credit reporting act, your employers are not allowed to obtain a background report on you without your signed consent. Make sure that whatever you signed when you applied for the job did not license your employer to do a background check on you whenever they feel like it."

This has nothing to do with whether you should tell your boss, but it gives you some idea about whether people can and will find out about it in the future. I tried to pull some information from him about how likely it is for your specific county to report arrests, but he said it really just depends.
posted by Ms. Saint at 9:56 PM on October 6, 2008

Well, I'm a boss, and I'd like to think that most of my employees would level with me in this type of a situation, but then, I'm a pretty cool boss. I think if you have a good relationship with your boss, it is in your best interest to be as honest as you feel comfortable. That said, "I have a court date for a ticket" is a pretty judgment-free, yet technically correct thing to say.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:02 PM on October 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm a boss, sometimes... and I'd rather not know the details. But I'd be pissed if I found out you lied to me.

Take a vacation day. Don't elaborate on the reason for it. If they ask (though most won't), then "I have an old traffic ticket that I'm fighting... big pain in the ass... have to be in court... buy me a beer some other time once it's over, and I might tell you the story."

And for the record... you spent a few hours in lockup, not jail. I'm not trying to suggest that it didn't suck... but in certain circles, the nomenclature is important enough that you should at least know it.

lockup == holding cell. Where you generally go immediately after being arrested. Usually involves drunks. Rarely involves bed or a stay longer than 36 hours. More frightening than dangerous.

Jail == county jail. Involves a bed and showers. You sometimes go here if you don't make bail, and are held for a few weeks before trial. You usually go here if you're convicted of a misdemeanor, and are spending 1-180 days "in jail".

Prison == State prison. You will be here a while. You will not go here for a traffic ticket.
posted by toxic at 10:26 PM on October 6, 2008 [3 favorites]

"I have a ticket thing I have to deal with".

"Okay!" says padraigin the former boss of people.
posted by padraigin at 10:51 PM on October 6, 2008 [3 favorites]

Should I level with my boss?

Just tell him you have "urgent personal matters" to deal with that day.
posted by Deep Dish at 11:10 PM on October 6, 2008

Yeah this is not 'spent time in jail'. You can go to jail for a few hours for something like falling asleep on the subway (happened to a friend of mine). But I don't see why would you even think about telling your boss. The most you'd tell him is that you need to go to court about a ticket. I don't see how the word 'jail' figures in here at all. As others have said, better to tell him that you need to take a vacation day, no comments. If you're on such friendly terms with him that it's suspicious not to say why, then make up a vague excuse or tell him you have court date for an old ticket.
posted by rainy at 11:18 PM on October 6, 2008

Most of the time warrants are issued because people do not take care of the ticket. Going to jail was their way of getting you attention. As you said you got a new court date to answer for this ticket. Call the court. You might be able to just pay the fine and avoid a day in court altogether.
posted by prjo at 6:21 AM on October 7, 2008

Deep Dish: "Just tell him you have "urgent personal matters" to deal with that day."

But that's so intriguing. What are those matters? I bet they're juicy. Ooooh.... I think I'll ask around and find out if anybody knows what's up.

But going to go deal with an old ticket? Yawn.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:34 PM on October 7, 2008

The last few jobs I've had, it has been a condition of my employment that I must immediately inform my employer if I am arrested or spend time in police custody.

If you don't have a clause like that in your contract, I'd go with the "need time to deal with a ticket" thing. It is true, isn't TMI and is no big deal.
posted by QIbHom at 8:20 PM on October 7, 2008

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