Everyone knows that if you’re convicted of a serious crime, a judge will likely give you a prison sentence and a fine. What most people don’t know is that a criminal conviction can have a negative impact on your life long after you’ve served your time. These are called “collateral consequences.” They’re not part of your sentence; they’re secondary effects of your criminal conviction.

There is no single law that created collateral consequences. Instead, they were written into many different statutes on topics ranging from social benefits to firearms, to employment in certain professions. For this reason, it can be difficult to accurately predict the collateral consequences of a conviction without consulting an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer. Remember, collateral consequences can stem from even a minor conviction.

What Are Some Collateral Consequences of a Conviction in Pennsylvania?

When consulting with your lawyer about the strategy you will employ to fight your criminal charges, you may consider the possibility of pleading guilty to a lesser offense. In this case, the lawyer should learn as much about your current life and future plans as possible in order to determine the collateral consequences of your conviction. This is because a criminal conviction may impact:

  • Your ability to retain custody of a child or to adopt a child
  • Your personal or commercial driving privileges—when convicted of a driving or substance abuse offense
  • Your chances of getting a job—state and federal laws regulate who can and cannot work in certain occupations
  • Your ability to get a loan for school—if you get a conviction for a drug offense
  • Your firearm ownership rights
  • Your voting privileges
  • Your immigration status if you’re an alien
  • Your access to a public pension
  • Your access to benefits such as food stamps, subsidized housing, or social security

Is it Possible to Avoid Collateral Consequences After a Conviction?

While it is possible to avoid the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction, the best strategy is to avoid getting a conviction in the first place. When considering a guilty plea, you should determine whether the offense you would be pleading to qualifies for expungement. Expungement is a mechanism that allows one to petition the courts and request that public records are cleared of your conviction—but expungement is not available for most serious crimes. For more serious crimes, seeking a pardon might be your only hope of clearing your record.

Depending on your circumstances, seeking the expungement of an offense or a pardon may be possible—but it often isn’t. As soon as your are charged with a crime, you should get in touch with a skilled and experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer who can help you understand the full consequences of a conviction. You can call Fienman Defense today at (215) 839-9529 for a free and confidential consultation of your case.

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