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What are the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction?

When defendants are facing charges, those who work in the legal system often advise them of the immediate penalties that they face. These include fines, prison time, restitution and supervised release. They don't tell them about all the "collateral consequences" associated with being convicted of a crime.

These may affect their ability to qualify for housing, certain professional licenses, welfare, employment or property rights. Their ability to adopt or move about freely and their immigration status cna be impacted as well. Individuals who have been convicted of a crime may find it difficult to readjust to being back in society and thus be more prone to recidivism.

In recent years, the American Bar Association (ABA) received a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice National Institute of Justice (NIJ). With that funding, they developed the National Inventory of Collateral Consequences of Conviction (NICCC).

This searchable online database aims to give defense attorneys, judges, victims, defendants, prosecutors and members of the general public better insight into the collateral consequences of convictions apart from sentences.

Researchers who worked to compile this database found that at least 87 percent of employers perform background checks. They also found that many state laws prohibited previously incarcerated individuals from seeking public employment.

The researchers ultimately found that 60 percent of individuals remain unemployed post-release. If and when they do find work, then the annual pay for men is generally 40 percent less than that of nonincarcerated individuals.

Minnesota residents with criminal records also struggle to find housing. Federal laws prohibit those with specific convictions from living in public housing. Many are disallowed from visiting these facilities as well.

The feds have empowered local governments to make decisions about how a criminal conviction may affect an individual's ability to be offered extended housing opportunities. Some allow landlords to use credit or background checks and residential histories before allowing someone to rent from them. Ex-cons often find themselves living in homeless shelters and soon locked up again because of their inability to find adequate housing.

Individuals who have criminal records, especially for drug offenses, are often prohibited from qualifying for student loans, professional licenses and public assistance such as welfare. Unable to survive on their own, they end up back in prison. A federal crimes attorney can advise you of these and many other collateral consequences of having a criminal conviction on your permanent record here in Minneapolis.

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