November 8, 2017

For someone facing a possible felony conviction, there are, of course, many things to worry about, but long-term planning for after a potential sentence has been completed will most likely be far from their most pressing concern.  One of the most important defense attorney responsibilities is to inform their client of the significant issues to be considered and the possible risks associated with a felony conviction.  Often, when entering a plea, a defendant is completely unaware of what is called collateral consequences, which are punishments or restrictions ex-felony offenders will face after serving their criminal sentence.

The best criminal defense lawyers are advocates for their client’s interests throughout the judicial process, including those interests the client may not be aware are important, like their long-term welfare and eventual reintegration into society.  Ultimately, if one is met with the challenge of a criminal punishment, whether it be a monetary fine or an extended imprisonment, a time will come, after this ordeal is over when they will have the opportunity to regain the freedom to pursue a happy and productive life.  Further challenges will come along with this new freedom, but if one is armed with the appropriate knowledge and advice from a good criminal attorney, they can feel confident in their future success.

It has been found that ex-felons are likely to incorrectly believe that as a result of their conviction, their rights have been intensely restricted.  .” (McCahon, David S. (2015). Combating misinformation in the ex-felon population. Probation Journal 63(1), 9-22. doi:10.1177/0264550515620690).  In particular, there is a significant degree of confusion amongst offenders about whether they have the right to vote after their sentences are completed.  Many believe their conviction has barred them from participation in elections and that there is no pathway to regaining their voting rights.  Although felon disenfranchisement laws do prohibit some ex-felons from voting, a great many are in fact eligible voters, yet they do not exercise that right.

This pervasive misinformation about felon disenfranchisement laws and its resulting effect on civic engagement, has been exacerbated by the stigmatization of ex-felons in this country, which is largely the result of legislation excluding offenders from such rights as welfare benefits, gun ownership, and the ability to serve in the military (The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996).

Reintegration into society is often hampered by the sense of exclusion that many experience after serving their sentences.  Unfortunately, failure to successfully reintegrate has been shown to have dire consequences in terms of rehabilitation.  “A large body of criminological research indicates, in order for-ex offenders [sic] to desist from criminal activity, they must engage in pro-social activities that assist them socially and mentally.” (McCahon).  Ex-offenders who misunderstand their rights are often troubled by what they think they know about disenfranchisement laws, but, when given correct information about their civil rights after their conviction, they tend to become more engaged in society and exhibit the pro-social behaviors, which are correlated with long-term wellbeing and successful rehabilitation.

Seeking advice from an experienced criminal defense lawyer is always a smart decision, and, by doing so, one can choose a proactive approach to ensuring their future.  If you are facing a potential criminal conviction, contact an experienced defense attorney, who has all of your best interest in mind, today at   

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