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Beyond the sentence: Collateral consequences of convictions

Criminal charges of all sorts come with specific penalties that you need to think carefully about when you are preparing your defense. Many people think about the court-imposed or direct consequences of these charges but they don't think about the collateral consequences.

A direct consequence is one that the court is authorized to impose. Incarceration, fines, community service and probation are some of these. All of these are covered by the sentencing guidelines at the state or federal level.

A collateral consequence is one that is on top of the court-authorized sentences. Being unable to own a gun if you are a felon or being unable to hold a public office due to a conviction are two examples of collateral consequences. The inability to own a gun means that a felon would be unable to go hunting, especially since many states also forbid felons from having projectile weapons of any sort so bow hunting would be out of the question.

In some cases, a felony charge, even a DUI, could mean that a person with a professional license or a security clearance loses those. This could be a career ending prospect. It could also mean that the money spent on your education was wasted, especially if you can't use your degree for anything else.

Some criminal convictions can prevent a person from receiving certain types of financial aid, including student loans or needs-based assistance benefits. This means that even if the collateral consequences don't impact you right now, they could impact you in the future when you need help.

Source: Justice Center, "User Guide & Frequently Asked Questions," accessed Oct. 25, 2017

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