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The "collateral consequences" of a criminal conviction

Most people would probably do everything in their power to avoid a criminal conviction. Just being arrested is bad enough these days, as many outside observers will immediately jump to conclusions about a person's guilt or innocence. However, a criminal conviction, beyond just the potential penalties involved in the criminal justice process, can come with significant "collateral consequences."

Collateral consequences refer to the potential penalties that a person can experience long after they have served their debt to society. For example, in many places throughout the country, including in Fresno, a person who has a criminal conviction on their record may have a much more difficult time finding employment. Getting a job is hard enough these days, but many employers will flat-out deny a position to a person who has been convicted of a crime.

In some circumstances, a person who has a criminal record may have difficulty securing financial aid for higher education. Convictions for drug charges, in particular, can have a negative impact in these efforts.

Furthermore, some housing options may be foreclosed to a person who has a criminal conviction, as many apartment complexes and other residential communities will perform a background check on potential residents prior to allowing them to sign a lease.

As our Fresno readers can tell, the long-term consequences of a criminal conviction can last well after any criminal trial or plea negotiation. The collateral consequences, in addition to the immediate threat of a prison sentence, are why anyone facing charges will want to plan out a strong criminal defense strategy. This could help them avoid the penalties of the crime they are accused of and limit or prevent any collateral consequences attached to the situation.

Source: National Institute of Justice, "Beyond the Sentence - Understanding Collateral Consequences," Sarah B. Berson, Accessed March 15, 2015

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