United States: Collateral Consequences Of Criminal Convictions

Published in NH Bar News - 1/17/2017

The collateral consequences of a criminal conviction can be devastating and far-reaching. Everything from immigration to professional licenses to eligibility for federal housing subsidies to the right to serve on a jury can be affected by convictions. 

In addition to the regulatory and statutory disabilities imposed, a person convicted of a crime can experience discrimination in housing and employment – potentially leading to a cycle of poverty and homelessness long after a sentence has been served. One survey, by the Institute for Research on Poverty, found that more than 60 percent of employers responded that they would "probably not" or "definitely not" hire applicants with criminal records.

On May 24, 2016, Judge Frederic Block of the Eastern District of New York issued a lengthy opinion in United States v. Chevelle Nesbeth detailing the devastating consequences facing a young woman convicted of importing cocaine and possession with intent to distribute. The judge reported that the defendant could be barred from working in the child care, pharmaceutical, transportation, hospice, and financial industries. She could be barred from joining the armed forces or a labor union. She could be barred for life from disaster assistance, couldn't adopt a child, couldn't serve on a jury, and couldn't receive her teacher's certificate. After reviewing these collateral consequences, the judge departed downward from the sentencing guidelines range of 33 to 41 months in prison to one year of probation with six months' home confinement and 100 hours of community service.

As Judge Block noted, there are nearly 50,000 federal and state statutes and regulations that impose disabilities or disadvantages on convicted felons. Many of the statutes are automatic and take effect by operation of law; a sentencing judge could not vacate these disabilities even in the interest of justice.

Helpfully, the American Bar Association's Criminal Justice Section undertook the task of compiling many of these statutes in one place: www.abacollateralconsequences.org. From the website, one can search by state, type of disability, and type of offense. The entry for New Hampshire reveals 1,119 such disabilities, ranging from the esoteric (a person convicted of a felony who is not an attorney cannot represent a person before the board of dental examiners, NH Admin. Rules Den. 204.01) to the economic (a person convicted of a disqualifying felony is ineligible for a master electrician license, NH Admin. Rules Elec. 302.02) to those having constitutional import (a person incarcerated of a felony conviction cannot vote, RSA 607-A:2, and a person convicted of an un-annulled felony cannot sit on a jury for life, RSA 500-A:7-a).

The vast majority of attorneys cannot commit 50,000 statutes to memory, but there are some key collateral consequences of which practitioners should be aware. Many clients are interested in enlisting in the armed forces. Those clients should know that they will have to disclose their criminal histories. They will likely need waivers if they have misdemeanor convictions, while those with felony convictions may not enlist, except for "meritorious cases," according to federal law. Anecdotal evidence suggests that waivers can be hard or impossible to come by at present.

Clients who frequently travel to Canada should know that they may be barred from Canada if they are convicted of offenses that would be considered indictable or hybrid offenses under Canadian law, such as driving while intoxicated.

Of course, if a lawyer has a client who holds a professional license, she should inform the client of the possible licensure ramifications of a criminal conviction. 

A client who has been convicted of certain drug offenses while receiving federal financial aid can have his eligibility for future financial aid negatively affected.

And clients with opioid dependencies should know that under the recently passed SB 515, a custodial parent's opioid abuse or dependence shall constitute prima facie evidence of child neglect.

The landmark Supreme Court case Padilla v. Kentucky held that defense counsel provides constitutionally deficient performance by failing to advise a client of the risk of deportation inherent in a plea deal. And while defense counsel may not be ineffective by failing to inform clients of other, non-immigration consequences, counsel always has an ethical obligation to give her clients the best advice she can. Moreover, attorneys should be aware that "grossly misinform[ing]" a client about a collateral consequence is ineffective. In State v. Sharkey, the NH Supreme Court found an attorney's inaccurate advice regarding the effect a DUI would have on the client's Massachusetts driver's license would be ineffective.

Prosecutors, too, will benefit from careful consideration of collateral consequences a defendant may face. As a comment to Rule 3.8 makes clear, a prosecutor is a minister of justice, and not just an advocate. She may be well served by considering the following, when making a charging decision or plea offer: does it serve the interests of justice that this defendant does not represent someone before the Dental Board? That this defendant become ineligible to be a master electrician? That he be ineligible to join the military? That he not vote?

The broad restrictions and disabilities that follow a criminal conviction form what Judge Block in Nesbeth calls modern "civil death." While those charged with class B misdemeanors may face these penalties uncounseled, defendants facing more serious charges rely on lawyers to guide them through the criminal process and to provide the best advice they can on the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction or plea.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.