In our last blog post, we discussed the Fair Chance Act and how it could help people with a criminal history get a job with the U.S. government. The Fair Chance Act, though, is just a reaction to a serious problem in the American criminal justice system: people who get convicted of a crime face what is called “collateral consequences” that can make their post-conviction lives far more difficult than they had been before they were charged with a crime.
Collateral Consequences of a Conviction Can Be More Severe Than the Legal Ones
Whenever someone is convicted of a crime, they will face the “legal consequences” that are set out in the criminal statute that they violated, other Pennsylvania laws, and court orders in their case. These penalties include things like:
- Jail time
- Community service
- Paying restitution to the victim
- Counseling, especially for domestic violence cases
- Drug or alcohol rehabilitation, especially in drunk driving cases or drug charges
A criminal conviction, though, also puts a blemish on the defendant's criminal history for all to see. How people and businesses react to that blemish can make a defendant's life very difficult even after they have completed all of the legal consequences of a conviction.
These are the “collateral consequences” of a criminal conviction.
Types of Collateral Consequences
There is a huge variety of collateral consequences that can come with a conviction. While they will depend on the severity of the offense and the type of crime it was, collateral consequences tend to fall into a few different categories, including:
- Second Amendment
For example, people who have been convicted of a felony-level offense in Pennsylvania will not be allowed to vote while they are still in jail, while commercial drivers who get convicted for drunk driving are very likely to get fired from their job, even if they do not miss any time while serving a jail sentence.
The High Costs of Some Collateral Consequences
The collateral consequences of a criminal conviction can make life extremely difficult, especially when the offense was a felony. Lots of businesses refuse to hire anyone with a felony on their criminal history. Some state and federal licensing boards – organizations that certify people to work in particular fields, industries, or roles – have a bright-line rule that forbids people with specific offenses from getting certified.
Together, these obstacles can leave people who have been convicted of a crime in dire straits. Without an opportunity to earn a living in a stable job, many feel the temptation to return to crime to support themselves and their family.
Criminal Defense in Philadelphia with Joseph D. Lento
Joseph D. Lento is a criminal defense attorney who understands the high costs of a criminal conviction, as well as the fact that it can go far beyond just the jail sentence. Contact him online or call his Philadelphia law office at (215) 535-5353 if you have been charged with a crime and want to know what you are really up against.