Collateral Consequences

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Collateral Consequences

Collateral consequences are additional penalties tied to a criminal conviction, affecting a person’s rights, privileges, and opportunities. These can include a broad range of issues, from familiar scenarios like losing a driver’s license to more complex matters like immigration consequences. 

The manner and severity of collateral consequences vary by state and are contingent on the specific offense in question. In some cases, collateral consequences are immediately apparent to the individuals in question. In others, the full ramifications may not become clear until after the conviction. 

This makes it essential for defendants, their loved ones, and legal professionals to conduct careful, thorough research when confronting any criminal case and to be fully aware of collateral consequences.

Collateral Consequences in California

Collateral Consequences in California

California is a prime example of a state widely known for its extensive list of collateral consequences tied to criminal convictions. Some prominent examples include:


Many occupations require professional licenses, which can be denied or revoked due to a criminal conviction. Many employers in California are prohibited from denying someone a job because of their conviction, but this isn’t true across the board. Some employers may be unwilling or unable to hire somebody with a criminal record, limiting work options and earning potential.


Convictions can limit access to safe and affordable housing by disqualifying individuals from public housing programs or causing landlords to reject their applications. 

Loss of Gun Rights

Another example of a collateral consequence is the loss of gun rights. In California, individuals convicted of a felony cannot possess firearms. Additionally, those addicted to the use of any narcotic drug cannot possess firearms. 

Loss of Voting Rights

Another collateral consequence of criminal conviction is the loss of voting rights, which varies from state to state. Some states automatically restore voting rights after the completion of a sentence, while others require petitioning for reinstatement. In California, you will have to register again once you finish serving your sentence. 

Loss of Driver’s License

Depending on the nature of the crime, collateral consequences may include the loss of a person’s driver’s license. In some cases, this revocation may be a direct outcome of the crime committed – such as in instances of DUI convictions or vehicular homicide. 

In other instances, a license suspension might be an indirect repercussion for offenses that were not explicitly related to driving, like drug convictions or failure to pay child support.

Public Benefits

Criminal convictions can also hinder access to public benefits such as food assistance, educational loans, and healthcare services. These benefits are often crucial to long-term success, and their loss can spell disaster for those trying to rebuild their lives.

Social and Familial Relationships

There are also the emotional and psychological tolls of being convicted of a crime. Those involved may experience shame or embarrassment, potentially leading to strained relationships with family members, friends, or romantic partners. 

Padilla v. Kentucky: The Importance of Considering Collateral Consequences

The Padilla v. Kentucky case serves as a crucial reminder of the importance of considering collateral consequences when planning a defense strategy. In this case, the defendant, a lawful permanent resident, was misadvised by his attorney about the immigration consequences of pleading guilty to a drug-trafficking charge. 

This lack of information led to the Supreme Court finding that the attorney’s representation was constitutionally ineffective and, consequently, overturned the conviction.

Defenses to Crimes with Collateral Consequences

When facing charges that can lead to collateral consequences, it’s crucial to build a strong defense strategy. Some examples of defenses that may be employed in these cases include:

Challenging the Evidence: In many cases, the evidence presented by the prosecution may be insufficient or flawed. By questioning the credibility and accuracy of witnesses or the legality of obtained evidence, you may be able to weaken the case against you and potentially avoid a conviction.

Asserting an Affirmative Defense: Depending on the nature of the charges, an affirmative defense may be available. For example, self-defense could be a viable defense to an assault charge. With a strong affirmative defense, the charges may be dropped or a conviction overturned.

Plea Negotiations: In some cases, it may be possible to negotiate a plea agreement that results in a lesser charge and minimizes collateral consequences. This may involve pleading guilty to a different offense that does not carry the same negative repercussions, such as immigration consequences or employment restrictions.

Navigating the Aftermath: Tips for Mitigating Collateral Consequences in California

There are steps you can take to mitigate the impacts of these consequences on your life:

Research your state’s laws: Understand the specifics of your jurisdiction’s laws and how they might pertain to your case. This may grant you better insight into potential consequences and help you make more informed decisions.

Prioritize qualifications and training: Certain restrictions on employment opportunities may make it difficult to find work after a conviction. Invest in new skills and qualifications to expand your options and improve your competitiveness in the job market.

Seek legal counsel: A skilled criminal defense attorney can be instrumental in helping you navigate your way through the legal system and will advocate for your best interests.

Explore expungement: Investigate whether you are eligible for expungement or other forms of relief that could help mitigate the impacts of your past offenses and afford you a chance to move forward with a clean state.

For help with any type of criminal offense and to learn more about collateral consequences, contact an experienced San Jose criminal defense lawyer at (408) 217-8818.

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