When people talk about the consequences of a criminal conviction, they usually speak in terms of the actual sentence – whether that means heavy fines, a brief stint in jail, a hefty prison term, a period of probation or some combination of the lot.
The collateral consequences of a conviction – those additional legal, social, and economic penalties that come along outside of the official sentence – aren’t discussed quite as often. They probably should be, however, because their impact on someone’s life and family can be quite severe.
What kinds of collateral consequences come with conviction?
Every situation can be a little different, but a felony conviction (and even some misdemeanors) can affect you in the following ways:
- Employment and occupational restrictions: A conviction can lead to a loss of professional licenses or the inability to work in certain fields. A teenage shoplifting conviction, for example, could prevent you from working in any job involving finances or money.
- Housing restrictions: Some landlords may refuse to rent to people with criminal records, and some public housing programs have restrictions on eligibility for people with certain types of convictions, no matter how old.
- Immigration consequences: Non-citizens may face deportation or other immigration consequences as a result of a conviction.
- Loss of firearm rights: People with felony convictions are generally prohibited from owning firearms — which can also affect their occupational choices.
- Financial difficulties: People with criminal records may find it difficult to obtain credit, mortgage loans or insurance, and may be subject to higher interest rates and premiums.
- Social stigma: People can be very judgmental, and many assume the worst when they hear that someone has a “criminal history.”
Essentially, the collateral consequences of a conviction can make you feel like your sentence never ends. Long after you’ve officially paid your debt to society, these additional repercussions of your court case can leave you feeling stuck and unable to move on. If that’s your position, it may be time to seek more information about your legal options for a second chance.