Being Accused of a Crime

July 8th, 2011

I have no criminal background. No felonies or misdemeanors. I do have a few moving violations, which I told the Virginia Bar Examiners all about a few years ago. But that’s it.

Yesterday, I was filling out an online application for a new apartment (more on the move soon) and after about 30 seconds, the application was denied. I was shocked. My credit score is quite high, my monthly income exceeded the requirements, and I have always been a good tenant. Why would they deny my application?

I called the leasing office, and explained my situation.

The representative started typing, and asked me, “Have you ever been convicted of any felonies?”

I almost became irate.

The thought of someone accusing me of committing a crime really made me upset. I kept my cool, and didn’t start screaming (that would have been counter-productive).

I said I am a lawyer in good standing with the Bar. My first reply, in hindsight, was probably not too effective.┬áMost people think lawyers are crooks (especially after Caylee Anthony!), so that probably didn’t help.

Next I said I held a DoD Security clearance for 5 years. Again, that probably didn’t help much either.

The woman asked for my full name. I said Joshua Blackman. She said is your middle initial M? I said yes, it is Michael. She said there may be someone else with a similar name with a criminal background.

A few minutes later she called me back, and told me that some Josh M. Blackman somewhere committed some crimes. I explained to her that was not me. At that point, she approved my application.

I was relieved, but still very frustrated.

My point of this post is not vent or rant (though it helped). My point was to explore what it feels like to be accused of a crime.

Fortunately, I have never been accused of committing a crime. This was probably the closest I’ve come.

Now, I was not really accused. Some distant voice on the phone asked me casually if I have ever committed a felony with respect to a rental application. I almost became incensed.

Now, imagine if a police officer had asked me a similar question, assuming I had done nothing. I can’t remember how many cases I’ve read where a police officer said something like, “the suspect became nervous or acted suspiciously after I asked him about a crime. This gave me suspicion to pat him down.”

I would imagine anyone becomes angry when a law enforcement officer asks if he has committed a crime–whether the accusation is accurate or not. Now is that suspicion really reasonable?

Anyway rant over.

In one month, I will be moving to my third Commonwealth. Details soon.