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What are the long-term consequences of a criminal record?

Facing criminal charges is a difficult situation to deal with for defendants in New York and elsewhere in the nation. Not only do the allegations create hardships such as a damaged reputation, but past convictions or a conviction on the current allegations could have long-term impacts that could be worse than the penalties they could or will face as a result of the criminal charges.

What are the long-term consequences of a criminal record? When an individual is convicted of a crime, there could be collateral consequences. These often are dependent on the type of criminal conviction, whether it was a felony or a misdemeanor and if the defendant has a previous criminal record. In some cases, these consequences include bars to certain types of employment and housing.

While the criminal justice system seeks to create these barriers for public safety reasons, some consequences of criminal convictions are not related to the crime for which they were convicted and punished. For example, if an individual is convicted of a gun crime, it is obvious that they be barred from owning a firearm. But even if a person is convicted of a misdemeanor, it is his or her first offense and the person did not have to serve much, if any, time, a criminal record could still come back to haunt him or her, even if it is not immediately after being released back into society.

Because long-term consequences could significantly impact the lives of the accused and convicted, the U.S. Justice Department has launched a new initiative. The Smart on Crime Initiative calls for state and federal agencies to review their regulations and narrow them in order to reduce unnecessary and harmful collateral consequences to those who have been accused or convicted of a crime. While these regulations will be reviewed and narrowed if possible, they will not be altered in a way that could jeopardize public safety.

When individuals are accused of a crime, they often focus on the penalties that a conviction could carry. It is also important to consider the potential consequences that their allegations or conviction could carry, as well. These circumstances should be addressed during a criminal defense and after the fact. Defendants should know their rights and option so they can protect those rights and avoid long-term negative consequences.

Source: National Public Radio, "Should A Criminal Record Come With Collateral Consequences?" Monica Haymond, Dec. 6, 2014

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