Secondary consequences of criminal convictions

On Behalf of | Feb 20, 2024 | Criminal Law |

Criminal convictions can include a range of direct penalties, including fines, probation and incarceration. However, the repercussions of a criminal record often extend far beyond these immediate consequences, permeating nearly every aspect of an individual’s life.

These secondary consequences, often termed “collateral consequences,” can be just as debilitating, if not more so, than the primary penalties handed down by a judge. As such, understanding these far-reaching effects is important for anyone who is facing criminal charges. This knowledge can inform their defense strategy, whether they end up taking a plea bargain, whether they end up deciding to take their case to trial and more.

Collateral consequences commonly associated with a criminal record

Employment challenges represent one of the most significant collateral consequences that those with a criminal record tend to face as a matter of course. Many employers conduct background checks and are hesitant to hire individuals with criminal records. This stigma can lead to prolonged unemployment or underemployment for those with convictions, drastically reducing their opportunities for economic stability and advancement.

Housing is another consequential concern that is commonly affected by having a criminal record. Convictions can disqualify individuals from public housing benefits and make private landlords wary of renting to them. This can lead to housing instability, homelessness or the necessity to reside in less safe neighborhoods.

Educational opportunities and access to financial aid can also be limited by criminal convictions. Certain offenses disqualify individuals from receiving federal student loans, grants and participation in work-study programs. This can hinder their ability to pursue higher education and vocational training.

Perhaps most personally, family relationships, friendships and broader social dynamics can suffer as well. Convictions can lead to the loss of parental rights, strain marital and familial relationships and diminish social support networks. These strains can result in profound emotional and psychological effects, which is certainly understandable given that humans are social creatures by nature.

Many of these collateral consequences are unjust when played out in context. However, they can be difficult to mitigate with the weight of criminal record around someone’s neck. This is, perhaps, the primary reason why those facing charges need to think twice before pleading guilty.