For many, the angst that accompanies a criminal conviction is inspired by the potential imposition of legal penalties. Even for seemingly minuscule misdemeanor crimes, convicted persons in Pennsylvania are subject to sentences that oblige the payment of costly fines and require mandatory jail and imprisonment terms. Although all legal ramifications are unfavorable, most of them are momentary. Collateral consequences, however, tend to last indefinitely.
Collateral consequences are repercussions that are peripheral to those that are enforced by the criminal justice system. The impact of collateral consequences foils the progression that individuals with misdemeanor or felony offenses anticipate to experience. The collateral effects of a conviction are usually an afterthought in the minds of naive offenders - that is until these repercussions are eventually encountered. Unfortunately, those who've acquired criminal records know all too well the many aspects of post-conviction life that are adversely affected.
The impact of collateral consequences is even more detrimental to those who've been convicted of sex crimes. Due to the severe stigmatization of sex offenses in modern society, leading a productive life as a “sex offender” is incredibly challenging. An offense of this nature on a person's criminal record warrants measures by law enforcement that many have reported being humiliating. These regulations dictate decisions that individuals with no criminal record, and even those without a record of a sex offense, are privileged to freely decide. For sex offenders, the options for where you can live, work, what extracurricular activities you participate in, and where you hang out, and who you can be around, are limited.
Of course, these limitations placed on the lives of sex offenders are piled on top of the hindrances the average convicted person will endure. If you have been charged with a sex crime, the first step you should take is to retain a criminal defense attorney. An attorney is equipped with the tools to help you avoid the harsh reality of what it means to be a sex offender in Pennsylvania. Your next step would be to gain an understanding of the gravity and the effects of a sex crime in the state of Pennsylvania. For the purposes of this article, we will address (1) the statewide sex offender registry, and a sex offense convictions potential effect on your (2) civil liberties, (3) employment opportunities, (4) and benefits.
The Sexual Offender Registry
The adaptation of Megan's law in every state across the nation requires individuals convicted of specific sex crimes to join a statewide registry. Pennsylvania's version of this law is known as the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). SORNA is essentially a template for the state to follow when applying sex offender register regulations.
Tasked with maintaining and updating this statewide registry is the Pennsylvania State Police. In an effort to sustain public safety, the state agency tracks the location of sex offenders and sends community notifications containing personal identifying information about adult and juvenile sex offenders to community members.
Relaying very personal information about yourself is an obligatory component of registering. Specifically, registrants are expected to disclose their full name and aliases, their current residential address, their license plate and registration numbers, the name and addresses of workplaces and schools, their email address, any online usernames and identities, and a recent photograph. This information will not only be sent to the people in your neighborhood, but it will be plastered onto an searchable statewide database for anyone with internet access to see.
In Pennsylvania, refusing to register or failing to report any changes in personal information to the authorities will lead to criminal charges.
The collateral consequences are pervasive for those who have been convicted of felony sex crimes - So much so that they can impair your core civil liberties. A felony conviction eradicates an individual's ability to own or operate a firearm for an extended period of time, serve on the jury, and hold specific public offices.The good news is that unlike many other states, Pennsylvania reinstates the right of felony offenders to vote once released from prison, rather than stripping this right forever.
Once you've endured the legal ramifications and are officially out of the bind of the criminal justice system, the existence of a sex crime on your criminal record will ensure that you still pay a price. A criminal record is a public record, which means that it is accessible to employers. In recent times, it is routine for employers to conduct background checks to select suitable employees. The stigma related to sex crimes causes people to perceive you as irresponsible or immoral. Therefore, they'll be reluctant to hire you over another person without a crime of this nature, or without a criminal record.
Limited Access to Benefits
A sex crime on your record can also disqualify you from receiving aid from state and federal government programs. Those who wish to receive a loan for school, gain access to Medicare/Medicaid, or reap other benefits provided by the government, will be denied.
Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney
As you can see, the collateral consequences of sex crime convictions in Pennsylvania are oftentimes more detrimental to an individual than the penalties and sentences imposed by the court. The courts rarely address or consider the impending collateral consequences of a conviction prior to sentencing, especially when prosecuting sex crimes. If you have been arrested and charged with a sex offense, you should immediately retain an attorney. With all that is at stake, you can't afford to skip out on consulting legal counsel.