What are Collateral Consequences of a Criminal Conviction?September 1, 2016
If you are convicted of a crime – whether due to a guilty plea or a jury verdict – the next step in your case will be sentencing. During sentencing, the judge decides what penalties you will face for your specific criminal offense as allowed by the law. In determining your sentence, a judge can consider recommendations from the prosecutor, plea bargains, arguments by your defense attorney, how remorseful you are, and any other aggravating or mitigating factors that may have existed in your case.
While the penalties ordered by the court can vary, they commonly include one or more of the following:
Depending on the circumstances of your case, a judge can also require mandatory counseling or substance abuse treatment and other special conditions. While these penalties can significantly affect your finances and your freedom, they are not the only consequences of a criminal conviction in Philadelphia.
What are Collateral Consequences?
Collateral consequences are a set of consequences that are not ordered by the court but that are instead set out by state or federal statute. Lawmakers can decide that they want additional consequences to apply to certain individuals convicted of certain crimes and there are many statutes that may apply to your conviction. In addition, state agencies may take certain actions allowable by law in response to your criminal conviction. The following are some examples of collateral consequences that can apply to criminal convictions in Pennsylvania:
Sex Offender Registry — If you are convicted of certain sex-related offenses,1 the law in Pennsylvania requires that you register with the state Sex Offender Registry2 and keep your information updated on a regular basis. Once registered, your name, criminal offense, address, work address, photo, and other personal information will be available online for anyone to see. This can, of course, have a significantly detrimental effect on many aspects of your life. If you fail to register when required, you can fail additional criminal allegations for the violation.
Loss of Professional License — Many state agencies regulate a variety of professional licenses for professionals such as lawyers, doctors, nurses, accountants, and many more. If an agency learns of your criminal conviction, it can decide whether to suspend or completely revoke your professional license or whether to discipline you in any other way. Losing your professional license can affect your ability to earn a living in the career of your choice.
Firearms — Certain criminal convictions will disqualify you from obtaining or holding a firearms license and will make it unlawful4 for you to possess, sell, control, or transfer any firearms.
Federal financial aid — Convictions involving a controlled substance will make you ineligible to receive federal funds for financial aid for higher education.
Public benefits — Some criminal convictions can disqualify you from receiving public benefits and can even result in eviction from subsidized housing.
Disenfranchisement — While you are incarcerated in prison for a felony offense or are in a halfway house in pre-release status, you will not have the right to vote in state or federal elections. In Pennsylvania, you can register to vote once you are released, even if you are still on parole. However, if you were convicted of election fraud, you will permanently lose your right to vote.
Social Consequences of Convictions
The above are only some examples as many other collateral consequences may apply to very specific offenses. In addition to collateral consequences, criminal convictions can also have social consequences, which are not set out by the state but are instead just a natural byproduct of being a convicted offender. Conviction records are available to the public, so any potential social acquaintance, romantic partner, or employer may find out about your offense and may choose not to associate with you or hire you.
Call a Skilled Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney to Discuss Your Case
Because of the many penalties, collateral consequences, and court-ordered consequences of criminal convictions, it is always best to avoid a conviction whenever possible. If you have been arrested or charged, please call an experienced criminal defense attorney at The Zeiger Firm for help immediately at 215-546-0349.