Concerned about potential impact of past arrest on application to the bar. 2/05

[edited a bit for length] I am a third year law school student, taking the required Professional Responsibility course. I recently learned that bar applicants may be prevented from taking the bar exam if they lack “moral character.” My personal issue is as follows. As a teenager, I was arrested (with peers) for breaking and entering (daytime), theft of a firearm (bb-gun), and malicious destruction of personal property. These charges were dismissed. I was never convicted of any crime. In addition, I was arrested for OUI 5 years later. Although I was never “convicted of a felony”, a recently assigned Massachusetts case disturbed me. In particular, these crimes may be considered as lacking “moral turpitude.” In the Matter of Harvey Prager (422 Mass. 86 (1996), a man’s application was denied due to a past history of acts constituting lack of moral character. I decided to review the Massachusetts bar application. It requires you to disclose any “charges” of felonies committed, as distinguished from “felony convictions.” I am very concerned that my arrest in 1981 may cause the Board of Bar Examiners to probe further into my past, and ask for a hearing. This may take time which I cannot afford, as a husband and father who has already taken a great financial hit in switching from a previous successful career. Or the Board may conduct a more thorough investigation in order to determine whether I was “rehabilitated.” My inquiries are as follows: [1] Must I report these “charges” since they took place when I was a juvenile? (I was an adult when I was arrested for drunk driving- so I realize that I must report this). Are the crimes of breaking and entering, theft of a bb-gun, and malicious destruction considered “felonies”? [2] If the Board sees this on my application, what is the likelihood that they will require a hearing or deeper investigation into my past? I’m not hiding anything, but concerned about the amount of time. (3) What is the most likely outcome?

Please keep in mind that the staff of LCL are, despite the organization’s name, not lawyers but mental health clinicians, though we do have sources to check on some matters. From what we can gather: [a] You are well-advised to report the whole story in a candid manner, whether or not the term “felony” applies precisely; however, we have no reason to believe that this history will be much of an obstacle to admission. [Prager’s reported offenses, we’re told, were of a much more serious nature.] [b] The best person to answer these kinds of questions would be an attorney who has repeatedly represented individuals before the Bar of Board Examiners, which you may be able to find via a lawyer referral service such as that offered by the Mass. Bar Association.

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