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 result of an individual’s conviction for a felony, misdemeanor, or other offense, but not as part of the judgment of the court. Collateral consequences are legal and regulatory restrictions that limit or prohibit people convicted of crimes from:

  • Accessing employment
  • Business and occupational licensing
  • Housing
  • Voting
  • Possession of firearms and hunting licenses
  • Education
  • Military service

A federal conviction results in the loss of the right to:

  • Vote,
  • Possess firearms,
  • Sit on a jury
  • and may result in travel bans from many countries.

Depending on the type of crime, the person’s professional license may be suspended, or the person may be banned or debarred from certain federal programs for a period of years.

There are more than 45,000 state and local laws and regulations that have profound ramifications for those with criminal records. Roughly 600,000 people leave prisons every year hoping that their punishment has ended, only to encounter a combination of laws, rules, and biases forming barriers that block them from jobs, housing, and fundamental participation in our political, economic, and cultural life. These collateral consequences illustrate the excessively retributive nature of our criminal justice system.

Currently, 30 states disenfranchise at least some people based on past conviction. Some collateral consequences serve a legitimate public safety or regulatory function, such as keeping firearms out of the hands of people convicted of violent offenses, prohibiting people convicted of assault or physical abuse from working with children or the elderly, or barring people convicted of fraud from positions of public trust. Others are directly related to a particular crime, such as registration requirements for sex offenders or driver’s license restrictions for people convicted of serious traffic offenses. But some collateral consequences apply without regard to the relationship between the crime and opportunity being restricted, such as the revocation of a business license after conviction of any felony.

These consequences create social and economic barriers for individuals reentering society by denying or restricting benefits otherwise available to all Americans. Collateral consequences can also adversely affect adoptions, housing, welfare, immigration, employment, professional licensure, property rights, mobility, and other opportunities. The effects of such restrictions often increase recidivism and undermines meaningful reentry.

Despite these sweeping adverse consequences, defendants are generally not entitled, as a matter of due process, to be warned of these consequences, either before accepting a plea or upon conviction. Although the U.S. Supreme Court has required consideration of certain immigration effects of a criminal conviction, the Court left open what other disenfranchisements might rise to the level requiring constitutional protection.

The attorneys at Stahl Criminal Defense advise all of our clients of the potential collateral consequences of their plea or conviction. We routinely represent licensed professionals that may face parallel administrative actions or hearings seeking to suspend their license based upon the criminal investigation or charges

Stahl Criminal Defense Lawyers have extensive experience in serious federal and state criminal cases. The founder of the firm, Robert Stahl, is a Certified Criminal Trial Attorney by the Supreme Court of New Jersey, a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and a former Assistant U.S. Attorney who tried some of the largest fraud and tax cases in the District of New Jersey. He has been aggressively defending serious cases in federal and state courts for more than 25 years.