How Criminal Convictions Can Affect Your Life

People generally understand that a criminal conviction leads to severe consequences. Although the specific severity of the punishment varies from case to case, most people know that crime can potentially result in hefty fines and lengthy jail time. However, most people don’t entirely understand how criminal convictions can impact other areas of one’s life. In legal practice, these are known as “collateral consequences” of criminal convictions and can affect anything from a person’s voting to child custody rights, reminding people that some unofficial punishments don’t have a limited sentence.

Civil or Political Participation

Many states limit the extent to which criminal convicts can participate in democracy. Up until recently, certain convicted felons were ineligible to vote. A recent amendment to the Florida constitution allows felons to restore their voting rights after paying certain fees. Critics of this law argue that most convicted felons won’t be able to take advantage of this law because the majority of them come from poor backgrounds. Many convicts face greater financial hardships after serving their prison sentences.

Additionally, criminal convictions disqualify someone from running for office.  In addition to felonies, crimes that involve fraud or dishonesty effectively preclude someone from holding office.

Crimes that render a person ineligible to hold office include:

  • Bribery
  • Unlawful reward for official behavior
  • Corruption
  • Violating election contributions regulations
  • Threatening harm against a public servant
  • Misuse of confidential information

Motor Vehicle, Professional, and Recreational Licensing

Certain crimes can impair a person’s ability to obtain or maintain certain licenses. For example, DUI convictions can lead to a suspended license. Additionally, professional licensing—such as for attorneys and doctors—requires the prospective professional to submit to a criminal background check. The licensing authority determines whether the applicant’s criminal history disqualifies them from getting a professional license. Many of the crimes that impair a person’s ability to obtain a professional license involve fraud, dishonesty, and other crimes of moral turpitude.

Furthermore, hunting and firearms licenses also involve criminal background checks. Offenses for violating hunting regulations can lead to suspension or revocation of the defendant’s hunting license. Convicted felons won’t be able to purchase or possess firearms.

Education & Employment

Committing certain criminal offenses can affect a person’s educational and employment in a myriad of ways. For example, convicted felons are ineligible to apply for Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarship program, unless they are awarded clemency from the Governor. Additionally, students with a criminal history will find it difficult to obtain federal student loans as one of the questions on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid asks about the student’s history of criminal convictions.

Crimes that limit a student’s eligibility for federal student aid include:

  • Drug-related crimes
  • Forcible or nonforcible sexual offenses

Additionally, employers tend to disfavor applicants with criminal histories. In particular, criminal histories involving theft and dishonesty are likely to disqualify an applicant from employment. However, the federal government encourages employers not to completely dismiss an applicant with a criminal past. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has interpreted the federal Civil Rights Act to require employers to demonstrate a business necessity for disqualifying applicants with a conviction record, especially if such policies would lead to a disparate racial impact.

Family Law

Before a spouse was able to file for divorce citing “irreconcilable differences,” people were required to state a legally recognized ground for dissolving their marriage.

Among the historical grounds for divorce include:

  • Adultery (which remains a crime in most states)
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Violent temper
  • Drug addiction

Today many of these categories represent forms of domestic abuse. Certain states, including those that use the equitable distribution system of dividing marital property upon divorce, might consider any criminal conduct committed by the parties during marriage or against the other spouse when determining property division issues.

Moreover, states have a governmental interest in protecting the safety and welfare of minor children. As a result, courts are required to make child custody determinations that serve a child’s best interest. Courts will look at a parent’s history of domestic abuse when deciding on a child custody arrangement.

Domestic abuse includes:

  • Violence against a significant other, child, or another household member
  • Violence against the property of another household member, including pets
  • Sexual assault of a household member
  • Harassment
  • Stalking

Consult The Virga Law Firm, P.A. Today

If you need legal advice regarding the collateral consequences of certain crimes, you should consult an experienced attorney The Virga Law Firm, P.A. Our legal team has years of experience with various legal issues, ranging from family law to criminal defense. We understand the interplay between different legal areas. Therefore, you can count on us to provide comprehensive legal advice about your case, how specific outcomes affect your rights, and the strengths and weaknesses of different courses of action.

To learn more about how The Virga Law Firm, P.A. can advise you about your case, call us at (800) 822-5170 or contact us online today.