Unanticipated Consequences Of Criminal Conviction

Once someone has been through the trial or plea process, sentencing, and served time in prison or probation, he may reasonably assume his punishment is through. Unfortunately, many discover that there are a series of collateral, or additional consequences to being convicted of a crime in America. These consequences are often referred to as the “Four Cs”. So what are they and what can you do to avoid them?

When someone is convicted for a crime, there are direct consequences to that conviction, such as incarceration, criminal fines, and probation. However, there are also indirect consequences attached to the conviction, such as disenfranchisement, loss of professional licensing, eviction from public housing, and disentitlement to loans.

Disenfranchisement is the loss of the civil right to vote. Kentucky and Virginia impose a life-long prohibition on the right to vote for those convicted of a felony. Other states prohibit voting for various lengths of time following the successful completion of their criminal sentence. However, in most states, the right to vote must be actively restored. 5.3 million Americans are currently denied the right to vote due to felony convictions.

Many professional licenses can be lost if the holder is convicted of a crime. Attorneys, doctors, and other professionals are all required to meet morality standards in order to remain licensed. Criminal convictions are taken into account in determining morality of a licensed individual.

Many government programs also treat people differently who have been convicted of crimes. You can lose the right to government housing, and can be denied government funding such as loans and financial aid. This can greatly hinder the future prospects of someone who is released from prison, limiting the available alternatives for developing a career.

Many have argued that the collateral consequences listed above are serious enough to amount to additional punishment that occurs after the fact of conviction and sentencing. Some even go so far as to say this is unconstitutional. Under the constitution, we have the right to work, and the right to equal protection from our government. Courts have ruled that judges are not required to tell people when they are sentenced about these additional government-imposed consequences, which many believe to be wrong. The exception is for immigration consequences, which a judge must warn an immigrant of during sentencing.

This information is not intended as legal advice.

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