There are many collateral consequences involved when someone is charged with a criminal offense that many people do not give appropriate consideration to when handling their case. What is a collateral consequence? It is any consequence of the criminal charge outside the court consequences, which I will call direct consequences. An example of a direct consequence would be a person losing his driver’s license after being convicted of a DUI, or going to jail after being convicted of robbery or burglary. Examples of collateral consequences include a person being unable to get a job because he has to disclose his retail theft conviction on job applications, or a person being unable to enlist in the military because of his conviction for domestic battery.
While direct consequences are obviously important (nobody wants to go to jail after a criminal conviction), collateral consequences are also very important to consider in deciding how to handle your criminal or traffic case. They often get shortchanged by both criminal defendants and defense attorneys simply because they are often long term instead of short term. An experienced lawyer will however recognize when collateral consequences need to be accounted for in handling a criminal case.
Certain scenarios regularly appear that involve collateral consequences. If you are young, such as high school or college age, any criminal conviction may hurt your chances down the road in getting a job. Often times a young defendant charged with theft or battery may not realize how this will hurt him down the road, he just wants to stay out of jail today. Nevertheless, it should be considered and discussed with his attorney.
Another situation that arises often is a non-citizen defendant facing a criminal charge. A conviction, and sometimes even supervision, can get a person deported or their visa revoked. Another situation is the defendant who holds a commercial drivers license (CDL) and is convicted or receives supervision on a traffic offense such as DUI or speeding. In addition to the direct consequences of possibly losing his CDL, he may have trouble getting a job driving a truck because he may be uninsurable for the company.
My final example concerns a person who is in college or professional school. He or she may be expelled from school after a criminal conviction, or have trouble applying for a professional license in the future.