Collateral Consequences For Criminal Convictions
When a person is convicted or pleads guilty to a criminal offense, everyone understands that the judge will impose a punishment or sentence that often includes payment of fines and court costs and sometimes probation or jail time.
Many people expect that convictions of some offenses will have additional penalties, such as a conviction for speeding may result in points being added to one’s license, and a conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) would result in a license suspension. People also understand that a conviction or guilty plea results in the creation of a criminal record, and a criminal record can impair one’s ability to be considered for jobs or be accepted into graduate schools and universities.
Penn State Student? It is Not “Just” a Citation Payable With a Fine
Penn State students relatively routinely are charged with underage drinking and Possession of a False Identification. Such offenses are nontraffic summary cases, which mean that the person generally receives a citation, similar to a speeding ticket, that references the costs and fines that are due.
Students often plead guilty to avoid telling their parents about an incident, only to discover that the guilty plea results in the suspension of driving privileges and creates a record that can appear on criminal background checks.
While students and parents become upset that neither the court nor the officer informed the student about the collateral consequences, the problem is that the student should not be seeking legal advice from either the officer or the court as that is the role of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
Collateral Consequences Can Be Unexpected, Severe, and Long-Lasting
Regrettably, many people do not understand the extent of collateral consequences, and the collateral consequences can sometimes be more severe and longer lasting than the actual sentence imposed by the judge. A criminal conviction can result in the following:
- Immigration status — can lead to deportation
- Loss of retirement pension
- Lifetime prohibition on the possession of a firearm
- Requirement to register as a sex offender on the Megan’s Law website
- Ineligibility for student aid
- Sanctions from school that could range from disciplinary probation to expulsion
- Inability to obtain government loans
- Inability to pass security clearances for employment and even recreational purposes
- Suspension of driving privileges
- Revocation of professional licenses for lawyers, doctors, and engineers
As the above non-exhaustive list evidences, a criminal conviction can impact many different areas of a person’s life and thereby must be considered in determining how to resolve a case.
You Do Not Always Get Notice of Collateral Consequences
While the judge is often required to inform a person of the possible maximum sentences that a person faces when pleading guilty, the judge is only required to inform the person of the direct criminal penalties and is not required to discuss collateral consequences. It is the job of the criminal defense lawyer to inform a client of possible collateral consequences.
While it is the responsibility of the criminal defense lawyer to discuss collateral consequences with a client, many lawyers do not inform clients about these collateral issues because the attorney is not aware of them.
Choose your attorney carefully, because regrettably, the fact that a client is not informed of collateral consequences by the defense attorney is often not a reason to reverse the guilty plea or choose a different way to handle a case.
Too often people are not informed of collateral consequences because they hire an inexperienced or jack-of-all-trades lawyer, or they represent themselves and rely on legal advice from the police officer, the district attorney, or the court. Simply stated, ignorance of collateral consequences is often no excuse to avoid them or to change how the case was resolved.
Free Initial Consultation With an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you or a loved one is charged with a criminal offense, it is critical that you discuss the case with an attorney who focuses representation on criminal defense and has experience. Attorneys with experience take continuing legal education courses that focus on issues such as collateral consequences to ensure that they have the most up-to-date information to provide to clients.
For a free consultation with experienced criminal defense attorney Jason S. Dunkle, call (814) 954-7622 or contact us by email.