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The importance of understanding collateral consequences

On Behalf of | Jan 29, 2020 | Violent Crimes

Judges have sentencing guidelines to follow when they convict someone of a violent crime. They also have the discretion to add extra consequences that will come into play after the person has completed the prison sentence and paid all fines. Especially before accepting a plea deal, a person facing criminal charges should learn about the potential collateral consequences attached to the conviction.

According to the American Bar Association, these collateral consequences often disqualify the person for a wide range of opportunities, and may even keep him or her from successfully reintegrating into society.


Almost a third of people who are leaving prison expect to go to a homeless shelter right away. Those with certain types of convictions who plan to move in with family members or friends could put these people in jeopardy of losing their homes, as some public housing requirements include mandates that previously incarcerated people cannot move into or stay at the public housing unit.

Even those with the resources to find their own housing may discover that when a landlord runs a background check, the information may result in an application denial.

Job opportunities

Sometimes, the nature of the conviction affects whether a person may qualify for a particular career, but this is not always the case. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights reports that employers are 50% less likely to call back or offer a job to an applicant with a criminal record. State licensing boards for careers ranging from beauticians to physicians may have the discretion to deny an applicant based on a criminal record, as well.


Many people who leave prison do not have qualifications or “job readiness” to step into a career, but collateral consequences may affect educational opportunities. Federal grants and other financial assistance may not be available to someone with a conviction, and learning institutions may also deny applications from students with criminal records.