A criminal conviction can carry significant consequences that go far beyond the actual sentence handed down by the court. The impact of having a permanent criminal record can follow you for years or even the rest of your life. It’s important to understand the potential consequences before pleading guilty or being found guilty at trial. An experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you on how to minimize the penalties. Here are some of the most common consequences of a criminal conviction:
Long-Term Criminal Record
One of the most far-reaching consequences is having a permanent criminal record. Your criminal history can show up on background checks performed by employers, landlords, lenders and others. This can make it very difficult to get a job, find housing, get approved for loans and credit cards, or apply to schools. Even convictions for minor misdemeanors can appear on a criminal background check and negatively impact your life.
Once convicted of a crime, it becomes part of your permanent criminal record. In the digital age, criminal records are easily accessible online to those running background checks. Sealing or expunging convictions is possible in some cases, but often difficult to achieve. For all practical purposes, a criminal conviction will follow you forever.
Loss of Rights and Privileges
A criminal conviction may lead to losing certain rights and privileges. Felony convictions can result in losing the right to vote, hold public office, possess a firearm, or obtain certain professional licenses. Misdemeanors may also limit rights, such as a DUI conviction suspending your driver’s license.
Voting and gun rights depend on state laws. In some states, all felonies result in losing these rights, while other states only limit rights for certain convictions. Restoring voting and gun rights is possible but often requires a lengthy process. The loss of these rights feels like being stripped of full citizenship.
For non-citizens, a criminal conviction can negatively impact immigration status and even lead to deportation. This is true even if you have been a legal permanent resident for years. Criminal convictions make you deportable under immigration law.
Any non-citizen convicted of an “aggravated felony” under 8 USC 1101(a) is not only deportable, but permanently inadmissible to the United States. There is no statute of limitations. An aggravated felony involves violence, theft, trafficking, and many other crimes. Even some misdemeanors are considered aggravated felonies.
Probation and Parole
It’s common for a criminal sentence to involve probation or parole. This means you are released under supervision and must adhere to strict conditions. Failing a drug test or missing an appointment with your probation officer can land you back in jail.
Both probation and parole involve close supervision after release from incarceration. Probation is instead of jail time, while parole is after serving time. In both cases, there are many rules that must be followed to avoid violations. Common rules include maintaining employment, drug testing, curfews, travel restrictions, and going to mandated programs.
Fines and Court Fees
Most convictions result in fines and court fees that can amount to thousands of dollars. Failure to pay these debts can result in additional penalties or even jail time. The financial obligations can be difficult or impossible for some people to meet.
Fines are monetary penalties imposed as punishment by the judge at sentencing. The amounts can range from small fees to tens of thousands of dollars. Many states allow judges wide discretion in setting fine amounts. Fines are imposed per conviction, so multiple charges create bigger debts.
Jail or Prison Time
While alternatives like probation are sometimes given especially if you consult experienced lawyers like Rose Legal Services in St. Louis,, many convictions still involve substantial jail or prison time. Felonies carry longer sentences than misdemeanors. Time spent incarcerated disrupts your life and can have lasting consequences.
Upon release, people struggle with starting over from nothing. Employment is hard to find, housing is limited, and depression is common. Families are broken. Serving time sets people back years in pursuing education and careers while their peers move ahead.
There are many other “collateral consequences” that stem from having a criminal record. These vary by state but may include barriers to public housing, student loans, child custody rights, military service, and more. The restrictions imposed by a conviction can be far-reaching.
A criminal record can restrict access to public housing, which is already in short supply. Applicants for Section 8 vouchers or public housing units may be rejected if anyone in the household has felony or certain misdemeanor convictions. This forces families apart.
Sex Offender Registration
Convictions for sex-related crimes require registering publicly as a sex offender. This listing remains online for years and imposes limits on where you can live, work and more. It carries an immense social stigma.
The sex offender registry follows those convicted long after their sentences. Registration periods span 10 years to life depending on the offense and jurisdiction. Photos, names, addresses and other info are published online, leading to social ostracism, harassment, and difficulty finding jobs or housing.
Difficulty Finding Employment
One of the biggest challenges faced by those with a criminal record is finding stable employment. Many employers are reluctant to hire someone with a criminal history as it is seen as a liability and risk.
Unable to find decent jobs, many hide their record and work for cash. Lacking legitimate work makes re-offending more likely. Banning the box on job applications to delay background checks until later in the hiring process helps improve opportunities.
There can be a significant psychological impact from being convicted of a crime and having a record. This marks you as a criminal in the eyes of society. Coping with the stigma and stress of how it limits your life can take a mental toll.
Being convicted makes you feel like a “second-class citizen” as you are stripped of rights and encounter suspicion. The shame and trauma of incarceration, along with reduced future prospects, negatively impact mental health. Rates of depression, anxiety and PTSD are higher.
In summary, the consequences of a criminal conviction can follow you for life and go far beyond fines and jail time. Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer such as Rose Legal Services in St. Louis can help minimize the penalties both in the courtroom and in the long run. Understanding your rights is key, as the effects of pleading guilty should not be underestimated.