Serving your sentence for a criminal conviction fulfills your responsibility and duty to the court and to society. After you have completed your sentence, however, you could still suffer from the hidden consequences of a criminal conviction. These collateral consequences can significantly hold someone back from reentering the community and living a productive life. Often, it is these consequences that most negatively affect a person with a criminal conviction, more so than serving a jail or prison sentence or paying a fine do. These consequences affect the person's ability to get a job, find housing, get public assistance, exercise basic rights, or even gain respect in the community.
Here are some common collateral consequences of a criminal conviction:
- Loss of gun rights. Felons and those with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions will lose their gun rights. In some, but not all, cases these rights can be reinstated.
- Loss of the right to vote. For many, losing the right to vote is very disappointing.
- Disqualification for some fields of employment or certain positions. For example, being convicted of domestic violence can prohibit you from entering fields such as education, medical care, or social work. And, in general, you will face more discrimination when applying for any jobs, regardless of your conviction.
- Discrimination in housing/rental market. This is an important one, especially if you live in an already tough rental market, as many of us do in California.
- Barriers to military enlistment. You may be able to obtain a waiver for your conviction, but certain convictions will make it nearly impossible to enlist in the armed forces.
- Barriers to some forms of financial aid. If you are in school or thinking about going back to school down the road, certain convictions could affect both federal and institutional student financial aid.
- Barriers to some forms of public assistance. Having a criminal conviction can make it harder to get much needed financial assistance if you need it down the road.
- Discrimination in the community and among friends and family. People judge those with criminal convictions, even though many of us are walking around with a criminal past. It's unfair, but this is one of the most troublesome consequences of a criminal conviction. You could lose friends, a partner, or even custody of your child.
Having a conviction can follow you the rest of your life. If you are ever involved in a lawsuit, your conviction can be held against your credibility. If you ever apply for a public position in your community, your criminal history could become an issue. These collateral consequences won't affect everyone, and that is why these effects aren't widely discussed. But those with criminal convictions face significant discrimination in many areas of their lives. Having barriers to employment can make the other consequences all the worse. In the end, you could end up struggling against discrimination from your conviction the rest of your life.
You may be able to take certain steps after your conviction to clean your record, restore some rights, and clear your name, but those opportunities are relatively limited. Some people can get a conviction dismissed while others may have to obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation. These options can significantly improve your chances of getting a job, finding housing, and getting public assistance.
In the face of all these hidden consequences of a criminal conviction, many people decide to fight their charges. Speak with an experienced California criminal defense attorney if you are facing criminal charges or have been convicted and want to minimize the effects your conviction will have on your life. You have options in both scenarios, but learning about those options is your first step. An attorney can help you devise a plan of action so you can either fight your charges to keep you record clean or take steps after a conviction to clean your record so you can restore some rights and move on with your life. Don't let a criminal charge ruin your life without first speaking to an attorney.
Are you in the Visalia or Tulare area and facing criminal charges? At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we are experienced in criminal defense and can help you fight your charges. Criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens has successfully represented clients in criminal trials in Fresno, Tulare, and Kings Counties for over ten years and will not be afraid to take your case all the way to trial. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss your case.