After serving a prison sentence and paying all the associated penalties and restitution for a violent crime, a person in Georgia may believe that he or she is now ready to move on. However, according to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, returning to life as it used to be may be impossible due to collateral consequences.
These consequences may take the form of sanctions, disqualifications or restrictions that prevent a person with a criminal history from successfully functioning in society. These may keep someone from one or many of the following:
- Obtaining housing
- Acquiring a driver’s license
- Qualifying for financial aid for higher education
- Receiving public assistance
- Serving on a jury
People may also find themselves unable to acquire or renew a professional license or find a job in certain fields.
One of the many reasons the system is often unfair is that there are over 44,000 of these consequences across the country. Not only that, in some cases, state, local and federal authorities may not even know which ones apply at the time of the conviction.
Another problem, according to the American Bar Association, is that the prosecution and the judge do not have to warn a defendant of the collateral consequences that may be attached to any given conviction. Therefore, someone could believe that accepting a plea deal is a good idea when the conviction will prevent him or her from re-entry into the community. Often, authorities may impose collateral consequences at their own discretion.
Uncovering and understanding all the potential collateral consequences of a conviction are important aspects of developing a successful defense strategy.