When a person is charged with a crime – whether it's in California or elsewhere – the first thought that comes to mind is this: will I go to jail or prison? Incarceration is a scary prospect. If you have a family, that means being away from them. If you are the breadwinner of that family, that could put them in a financial quagmire. Even if you don't have people who depend on you, the idea of jail is not one anyone cares to think about.
But there's more to a criminal conviction than incarceration, fines, probation, community service, and other possible statutory penalties. When you are convicted, it goes without saying that you end up with a criminal record. That criminal record leads to serious collateral consequences that impact your life long after you have paid your so-called debt to society.
Some of the most common collateral consequences a convicted criminal can face include the following:
- difficulty obtaining employment
- difficulty maintaining a current job
- the possibility of losing a business or professional license
- problems with immigration
- problems with child custody
- problems traveling
- difficulty getting accepted into an educational program or continuing education
- difficulty obtaining a loan
- difficulty securing housing
- required registration as a sex offender
- loss of driving privileges
- loss of voting rights
- loss of the right to own and use a firearm.
The extent to which any of the above applies to you is dependent on the nature and classification of the crime. Also, some collateral consequences are imposed by California or federal law. Not all collateral consequences will apply. It suffices, however, that they exist and will affect you in one way or another.
The importance of defending against allegations of a crime is found in these collateral consequences because more than jail or fines, these consequences can have a permanent and negative impact on the overall future and quality of your life.
How Can Sigal Law Group Help Against Collateral Consequences in California?
Criminal defense attorneys have a duty to consider the consequences of their decisions and actions when defending their clients, including the collateral consequences of a conviction. Not all criminal defense attorneys, however, take this into consideration when defending clients. We at Sigal Law Group take collateral consequences seriously and implement it into our overall defense strategy. There are three ways we hope to avoid or minimize collateral consequences for any of our clients by:
- getting the charges dismissed;
- getting the charges reduced; or
- winning an acquittal at trial.
Dismissed Charges & Collateral Consequences
At Sigal Law Group, it's our first intention to identify and investigate if the State truly has a strong case against you. If not, we use our resources, knowledge of the laws and court system, and our rapport we have built through the years with the prosecutor's office, to get the charges dismissed.
When we are successful, most of our clients will be able to avoid consequences that may be collateral to a conviction. There are some, however, that face consequences outside the court system. Two common examples are provided below.
- People who have been charged with a DUI still have an administrative hearing separate from the criminal hearing, and as such, they may still lose their driving privileges for a certain period of time and as a result may also experience higher auto insurance premiums.
- People who have been charged with domestic abuse may have already had a restraining order or protective order placed against them, and if so, that means they may not be allowed back in their homes and may be denied their constitutional right to keep a firearm, among other consequences of a protective order.
Though they face these consequences, the result and extent are far less damaging than what they would have experienced if they were convicted of the charges.
Reduced Charges & Collateral Consequences
In California some crimes are wobblers. That means if you are charged with a felony, it could be reduced to a misdemeanor. The consequences of a felony are far worse than collateral consequences following a conviction of a misdemeanor.
For example, a felony conviction could mean the loss of your constitutional rights to vote or to own and use a firearm. If convicted of a misdemeanor, these consequences won't apply (unless it's a domestic violence-related misdemeanor charge, then you could lose your right to a firearm).
An Acquittal & Collateral Consequences
Winning an acquittal is second-best to a dismissal of the charges. The main difference is you had to endure a criminal trial and the costs associated with it. Plus, your good name gets a little more soiled than if you had only been charged and then had the charges dropped.
The same holds true though that even if you are acquitted, some collateral consequences will stick aside from whatever harm came to your reputation. The two primary examples are arrests related to DUIs and domestic violence, as noted above.
Contact an Aggressive, Resourceful Criminal Defense Attorney in the Greater Los Angeles Area Today
If you have been arrested for a criminal offense, you should know that not fighting the charges can bring more harm to you than you may have anticipated. Some people get scared and think pleading guilty or no contest is the best option so they can "do the time" and get the past behind them.
But with a criminal conviction, the past is always with you in the form of your criminal record. Fighting the charges is often your best bet to avoiding these types of life-changing consequences.