The Collateral Consequences of a Felony Conviction
A felony conviction carries severe consequences that can change your life forever. Depending on your charges and the circumstances of your case, you could be facing anywhere from three-and-a-half years to 20 years in prison. While time in prison may be the most serious penalty you face, you should not overlook the other penalties that may be imposed and other consequences if you are convicted. Many of these consequences can affect your life long after you’ve been released from prison and may be a burden you carry the rest of your life.
In addition to a lengthy prison sentence, many felony convictions carry the possibility of having to pay an onerous fine. These fines are determined by the category of the felony you are charged with and the circumstances of your case. For example:
- First-degree felony: a fine of up to $25,000. Includes crimes such as murder, aggravated assault, rape, kidnapping
- Second-degree felony: a fine of up to $25,000. Includes crimes such as sexual assault, involuntary manslaughter, burglary
- Third-degree felony: a fine of up to $15,000. Includes crimes such as bribery, child pornography, burglary and theft
A fine of $15,000 or $25,000 is no small matter – you could buy a car for that amount of money. To further complicate things, failure to pay these fines may result in further legal difficulties. Most people accused of a crime are unable to pay that amount of money regardless. If convicted and you go to prison, paying these fines becomes impossible.
Similar to criminal fines, you may be ordered to pay restitution if convicted of certain felonies. Restitution requires you to pay back any money to the victims that they lost as a result of the crime. Restitution is relatively common in financial crimes or crimes involving fraud but can be imposed in any crime where the victim suffered a loss of money or property. It can also be ordered to compensate the victim for the expenses they incurred for counseling or medical treatment. However, restitution is not intended to compensate the victims for any pain or suffering that resulted from the crime.
Damage to Your Reputation in Your Community
One of the most frustrating aspects of a felony conviction is the feeling that you have been branded for life, even after you have served your prison sentence. Felony convictions are a matter of public record. Anyone can go to the clerk’s office and look up your criminal record, and even review the court’s file. And thanks to the internet, most, if not all, of this same information is available online. Without knowing anything else about you, other people will judge you based on your criminal record, and sometimes only with incomplete information.
If you have been charged with a sex crime, the public stigma associated with a criminal conviction is even more worrisome. As you are probably aware, people convicted of sex crimes are obligated to register as a sex offender. Depending on the nature of the offense, you may be required to register for life or a certain number of years after the date of your release.
If convicted of a felony, you should be prepared for the fact that your friends, family, co-workers, and other members of the community can find out about your conviction.
Impacts on Your Employment
You probably already know that many job applications ask whether you have been convicted of a felony. In addition, many employers require that you undergo a background investigation. One way or another, either you will be obligated to disclose your conviction or your employer will find out about it. Your conviction could make it difficult to find a job.
Thankfully, there are some legal protections in place for people with felony convictions. Pennsylvania law prohibits employers from refusing to hire you unless your conviction has some bearing on your ability to perform the job. In addition, Pennsylvania law requires potential employers to notify you in writing if they have decided not to hire you based on your criminal record.
Federal law also prohibits employers from discriminating against people based on their criminal records. Before declining to hire someone based on their criminal history, employers must consider the following factors:
- The nature and seriousness of the crime;
- The nature of the job the employee would be performing; and
- How long ago the person was convicted or released from prison
Despite these protections, a felony conviction can make it very difficult to for you to find gainful employment.
The Loss of Your Professional License
If you hold a professional license of any sort, a felony conviction can result in the suspension or revocation of your license. Most licensing boards are private entities with broad authority over your license, with authority to pursue disciplinary action for things as broad as “conduct displaying a lack of moral fitness” or similar language. The board could revoke or suspend your license for a conviction totally unrelated to your professional life, such as when an accountant is convicted on a felony assault charge. That said, licensing boards tend to pay special attention to convictions that question your honesty or suggest that you are a danger to the general public. Whatever may be the case, you may be unable to work in your chosen profession if convicted of a felony.
Loss of Certain Rights
If convicted of a felony, there are several other rights that you may lose:
- You will not be able to vote while in prison
- You will not be able to own a firearm if convicted of a violent crime
- You may not be able to obtain certain government benefits, including student loans
- You may be prevented from running for public office
If you’ve been charged with a felony, it is important to understand all of the implications you are facing if convicted. A felony conviction can change your life forever, even after you have paid your debt to society.
Call Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney Lauren Wimmer to Protect Your Rights
If you’re facing felony charges, you should speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Prosecutors often charge people with crimes they didn’t commit and want to get a conviction as quickly as possible. You need someone on your side who will fight to make sure your rights are protected and you get a fair result. Criminal defense attorney Lauren Wimmer provides her clients with an aggressive, relentless defense. If you’d like to schedule a free consultation to discuss how she can help you, call Wimmer Criminal Defense Law at 215-712-1212 or contact us online.