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Collateral consequences: The hidden penalties that don't go away

Facing criminal charges brings up thoughts of what might happen if you are ultimately convicted of the charges. While it is important to think about the possibility of being incarcerated or having to pay fines, there are some penalties that you might face that go far beyond what the criminal courts will impose.

Collateral consequences are ones that you will face in your normal life. Even though these aren't imposed by the court, they can have a profound impact on your life. Since they aren't court-imposed, these consequences won't end when the courts' sentences for you end.

Impacts on your family

There is an intersection where criminal law and family law meet. As hard as it is to think about, there is a chance that a criminal conviction can impact your ability to parent your children. While this isn't the case for all criminal matters, it is usually true for violent criminal convictions. For example, if you are convicted of domestic abuse related charges, there is a good chance that you will only be granted supervised visits with your children.

On top of those sorts of impacts on your family, there are others that might also occur. Your family will have to do without you there if you are sentenced to time in prison or jail. One out of every 50 children in this country has a parent who is incarcerated.

Your family members might also have to deal with financial impacts because fines and other expenses can take away from the money available for the family.

Employment effects

There are many employers that require background checks before they will extend an employment offer to an applicant. Having a criminal conviction on your record might make it hard for you to find a job. This is especially true if the conviction was a felony, involved a violent crime, had to do with fraud, identity crimes or theft, or included a juvenile as a victim.

There is a even a chance that something as seemingly minor as a drunk driving conviction might impact your job prospects. Some jobs, such as delivery drivers or even executive positions, require that you have a clean driving record so you can be covered on insurance policies. This could prevent you from getting the job you need to support yourself.

Social consequences

The social consequences are also hard to deal with. These can include everything from being unable to enjoy a night out with friends because you can't be around alcohol to being unable to vote. There are 6.1 million people who can't vote in this country because of a felony conviction. Even owning a firearm might be prohibited in some cases.

All of these are important considerations when you think about how to handle your case. You need to make sure that you consider all the options you have before you make a final decision.

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