People seek representation because they need help navigating our complex legal system and its consequences of crime. Most of our clients know what they did is wrong and simply want a substantive and fair outcome. They want to put their mistakes behind them, move on, and become contributing members of society again. But when the court throws collateral consequences at them, they become far less capable of doing so.
Collateral consequences are additional state penalties that are not direct consequences of conviction but are mandated by statute. Examples of collateral consequences could be driving restrictions, loss of professional licenses, loss of welfare or other state funds, and deportation of immigrants (even those with permanent residence status).
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The consequences can be detrimental to anyone with a criminal conviction and are likely to affect their life choices long after conviction. These consequences often take people out of their jobs, schools, and decent housing. Background checks are so easy nowadays and anyone from a business owner to a landlord can perform them. As a result anyone convicted of a crime is not likely to be allowed to lease an apartment from a landlord, get hired, or get an important loan. Even some volunteer organizations will refuse their help.
These collateral consequences need to be limited. How can a person convicted of a crime become a valuable member of society again if they cannot get a job or volunteer to help? Not only do collateral consequences affect the individual but they also negatively impact public safety. If people cannot get back on their feet after a conviction they will likely resort to crime again which completely undermines the legal process. Crime will not be reduced if rehabilitation is not made a priority of the legal system. That will not happen as long as collateral consequences remain as detrimental as they currently are.
By Connor Roe, Summer Intern