When someone pleads guilty or is convicted of a federal or state crime, there are serious collateral consequences, in addition to potential jail time, forfeiture, restitution and other fines and penalties. The term ‘‘collateral consequence’’ means a collateral sanction or a disqualification, a penalty, disability, or disadvantage that is imposed by law as a [...]
President Biden just signed an Executive Order to phase out the federal government’s use of private prisons. For-profit, private prison systems have been found to provide less humane and less safe environments overall, in an effort to increase profits. While signing the Order, the President stated that “[t]his is the first step to stop corporations from profiting off incarceration, that is less humane and less safe, as studies show . . . [a]nd this is just the beginning of my administration’s plan to address systematic problems in our criminal justice system.”
Many federal, state, and municipal courts have limited the number and types of cases they will be handling in the near term. Some have adjourned jury trials for several weeks and in some cases even months to see what happens after a period of isolation. Courts have summarily waived Speedy Trial Act rights and ordered continuances for a period of time. State courts in particular are promoting the use of video and teleconferencing in lieu of appearing in court. Municipal courts have adjourned court appearances for motor vehicle summonses and code violations. Detention has been waived in certain cases depending on the type of crime, the age of the offender, and other relevant factors.
Recent statistics show that about 96% of the criminal cases in federal court are resolved through guilty pleas. The number of cases going to trial has dramatically decreased in the past ten years. Thus, today’s criminal defense attorneys must be adept at negotiating the best possible resolution for their clients that choose to plead guilty.
After more than two years of careful research and deliberation, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) released The Trial Penalty: The Sixth Amendment Right to Trial on the Verge of Extinction and How to Save It. The “trial penalty” refers to the substantial difference between the sentence offered prior to trial versus the sentence a defendant receives after a conviction at trial. This penalty is now so severe and pervasive that it has virtually eliminated the constitutional right to a trial. The report notes that to avoid the trial penalty, defendants must surrender fundamental rights which are essential to a fair justice system. The release of this report has garnered support from leading criminal justice reform entities, all of which agree that the incursion on the right to a trial poses a clear threat to justice.
A felony conviction has a serious impact on a defendant’s life, even beyond the obvious immediate consequences of sentencing. A person who has a felony conviction on their record forfeits certain rights that other members of the community enjoy. In some jurisdictions there exists a process by which an individual can seek to have a felony conviction expunged from their record, but even this process may not fully restore every right and privilege that the person held prior to their conviction.