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People convicted of crimes generally face a number of consequences that
remain with them long after they have served any court-imposed sentence.
These collateral consequences take many forms and vary widely depending
on the jurisdiction. In addition to changes in a person's legal status
due to conviction, the stigma of a criminal record may bring about more
subtle and widespread forms of discrimination and social ostracism.
The right to vote of people with felony convictions varies from state to
state. Two states permit prisoners, parolees and probationers to vote.
Thirteen states allow probationers and parolees to vote, eight states
reinstate probationers voting rights and 20 states restore voting rights
to people who have completed their sentences.
In 2007, Florida moved to restore voting rights to convicted felons. Florida's
felony voter registration law divides applicants into three categories
based on the gravity of their crimes. Those convicted of nonviolent crimes
do not need to apply for restoration of voting rights and merely need
to re-register. Individuals convicted of violent crimes, not including
murder and sexual battery, must apply to the clemency board. The board
may grant rights immediately or investigate on a case-by-case basis. People
convicted of the most violent crimes, such as murder and sexual battery,
must face a more thorough investigation and must attend a meeting of the
clemency board before their rights may be restored.
People with criminal records may encounter additional obstacles and penalties.
After a conviction for drunk driving, most drivers will see their automobile
insurance rates increase for at least three years. Insurance companies
consider these individuals to be "high-risk" drivers. Auto insurance
premiums may double, and in some states, even triple.
Some statutes require the judge to suspend the license of a person convicted
of the crime. In other circumstances, a conviction results in a suspension
of a driver license by the Department of Highway Safety For example, conviction
for marijuana possession in Florida may result in loss of driving privileges
for up to two years.
Limited employment opportunities are one of the most serious secondary
consequences of conviction. People with criminal records face pervasive
work discrimination. Criminal records are easily obtained and widely available
for employers who can download them from the internet at minimal cost.
For many people with criminal convictions, the employment consequences
of their convictions are more severe than the criminal punishment. People
with criminal records often experience high unemployment rates and low
wages. A study based in Florida found that over 40 percent of jobs have
some restrictions based on criminal history.
Many states have statutory bans on people with certain kinds of convictions
from working in certain industries, such as child care, nursing and home
health care. A conviction for certain crimes can mandate the denial of
some government benefits, such as loans, grants, contracts or unemployment benefits.
Furthermore, some criminal convictions result in restrictions on professional
licenses, which can also impede the search for employment. Some licensure
statutes provide that a person convicted of certain crimes cannot obtain
the license, while other professional licenses are simply more difficult
to obtain for a person who has been convicted of a crime.
Sex offenders subject to residence restrictions typically experience decreased
housing availability, increased homelessness and significant financial
hardship. Residence restrictions may force offenders to live farther away
from employment opportunities, treatment services and public transportation.
Under the laws of many Florida cities, sex offenders are prohibited from
living within 2,500 feet of schools, parks, churches or any place where
children might congregate.
As many as 70 registered sex offenders have been living outside or under
the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami, Florida. Miami-Dade County ordinances,
which are more restrictive than Florida's state laws, have made it
nearly impossible for these individuals to find housing. The colony of
sex offenders is an encampment of tents and shacks under a bridge that
began forming more than two years ago. These individuals are not permitted
to live within 1,000 feet of places where children congregate.
Even for those who can find housing that complies with the local ordinances,
though, renting an apartment or obtaining a mortgage may seem nearly impossible.
Landlords generally perform background checks, and may deny approval to
people with criminal records. Depending on the type of crime, a criminal
conviction may increase the likelihood that a lender will turn one down
for a mortgage.
For those who are not U.S. Citizens, a criminal conviction may have serious
immigration consequences. An individual may be removed from the U.S. even
if they have permanent residence (a green card), a student visa, a temporary
worker visa or asylum or refugee status.
Although these are some of the most significant consequences for the day-to-day
lives of people convicted of crimes, this list is by no means exhaustive.
Those convicted of felonies are required to register in the state in which
they reside. Failure to register could result in the person being arrested,
charged with another crime and sentenced to a term of imprisonment.
If someone is convicted of a crime and later arrested for a separate crime,
that person faces the possibility of significantly enhanced penalties
because of the prior conviction.
Finally, it is important to note that the ultimate consequences largely
depend on the particulars of any situation. A withholding of adjudication
will have different consequences than a conviction. A conviction under
one statute may have different consequences than a plea bargain reached
for a lesser crime.
Because a criminal conviction may have such serious consequences, it is
important to do everything you can to protect your rights if you're
facing criminal charges. Contact an experienced attorney to discuss your
options and protect your interests.