Mount Holly Criminal Lawyer Discusses Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions
When facing a possible criminal conviction, the tendency for most is to focus on the direct consequences such as incarceration, fines, or probation. But every criminal conviction also triggers collateral consequences – the additional civil penalties, restrictions, or disadvantages imposed upon a person as a result of a criminal conviction.
The scope and significance of collateral consequences are often unknown to individuals at the time of their arrest or conviction. However, the impact of these consequences may turn out to be longer lasting and more severe than the initial punishment handed down by the court.
Sometimes called the “secret sentence,” collateral consequences can affect every aspect of a person’s life. Such consequences may limit an individual’s employment and business opportunities, ability to hold professional licenses, access to government benefits and program participation such as student loans and housing, parental rights, immigration status, and even volunteer opportunities. The burden of collateral consequences can create barriers for individuals trying to reintegrate into society, who may rely on these benefits to help them rebuild their life.
Collateral consequences are imposed by a number of sources, including federal and state statutes, administrative agencies, and may even be imposed on third party decision makers such as hiring managers or landlords.
Agencies imposing collateral consequences claim they are a justifiable measure taken to protect public safety, such as prohibiting a person convicted of a sex crime from working in an elementary school, or barring a person convicted of fraud from holding public office. However, many of these restrictions apply automatically to anyone with a criminal record, regardless of how small or unrelated the crime.
For example, a person convicted of a misdemeanor in New Jersey may face a plethora of automatic collateral consequences, many of which have indefinite terms. These individuals may be barred from a number of trades and professions such as working as a driving instructor, serving as an actuary, or volunteering at a crisis shelter. Collateral consequences for misdemeanors and other offenses may also include denial of student loans or being evicted from low-rent housing.
There are more than 44,000 collateral consequences nationwide, and may vary according to jurisdiction, the area of life affected, the triggering offense, the length of time the law applies, and whether the law is applied automatically or is left open for discretion.
Many argue that the discretionary application of restrictions allow employers and landlords to accept or deny an individual based on their own personal bias towards anyone with a criminal record, regardless of the nature of the crime or how long ago it was committed. Thus, collateral consequences may effectively cause individuals with criminal records to be permanently positioned as second-class citizens, even if they never again commit another crime.
The laws governing collateral consequences of criminal convictions are extremely complex and convoluted. That is why it is essential to hire an experienced criminal lawyer who understands the law and will take into consideration both the direct and the collateral consequences a particular plea or conviction will have on your future.
Mount Holly Criminal Lawyers Aggressively Defend Those Facing Criminal Charges in New Jersey
Mount Holly criminal lawyers at the Law Offices of Michele Finizio are committed to protecting the rights of clients facing criminal charges in New Jersey and will work with you to minimize the destructive impact collateral consequences may have on your future. Our office is located in Moorestown, New Jersey and we represent clients in Camden County and Burlington County. For a free consultation, call today at 856-242-7300 or contact us online.