The Collateral Consequences of A Felony Conviction

by J.D. Garrett on October 16, 2013

Consequences of a felony conviction are lifelongA felony conviction in Virginia can carry lifelong consequences in addition to hefty prison sentences and fines. The origin of the word “felony” dates back to feudal England and committing a felony would result in the confiscation of land and other personal property. True to its origins, the consequences of a felony conviction in Virginia include the deprivation of a wide array of rights, ranging from a loss of voting rights, to the inability to own a firearm and receive federal benefits. While some rights may eventually be restored, this process can be long, costly, and cumbersome.

What is a Felony?

Virginia, like most states, divides offenses into two categories: misdemeanors and felonies. Under Virginia law, any crime that is punishable by imprisonment for over twelve months or by death is considered a felony. Virginia then divides felonious crimes into six classes. A Class 6 felony is the least serious, while Class 1 felonies, such as first-degree murder, are punishable by death. While most are aware that jail time is a possible consequence, many are unaware of the additional consequences that come with a felony conviction.

Felony Conviction Consequences

If you are convicted of a felony in Virginia, you should expect to have your civil rights drastically curtailed. The most frequent consequence of a felony conviction is the loss of the right to vote.  Known as “disenfranchisement,” The Sentencing Project estimates that roughly 350,000 Virginians are ineligible to vote because of a felony conviction. Virginia ranks third in the nation in African American disenfranchisement with 20% of African Americans ineligible to vote because of a felony conviction.

A felony conviction for a violent crime can deprive you of another Constitutional right: your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Virginia classifies a wide variety of crimes as violent felonies, ranging from the obvious, murder, to the obscure, leaving one’s wife in a place for the purpose of prostitution. Under the Virginia Code, possessing or transporting a firearm after conviction carries a mandatory five-year prison sentence.

Many of the collateral consequences depend on the type of felony committed. If, for example, you are convicted of a felony related to a sex crime, you will be placed on Virginia’s Sex Offense Registry. As we recently discussed, it is nearly impossible to be removed from the Registry – even if the victim later recounts.

Drug-related felonies carry some of the strictest collateral consequences. These felonies can result in eviction from public housing, ineligibility for federal education loans and grants, and a ban from food stamp programs.

A felony conviction can also affect your job. Not only can you be prohibited from running or holding public office, you can also lose your current position with the federal government. These occupation restrictions can apply to private employees as well. As a condition of probation, a judge can prohibit you from working in certain fields if there is a “reasonably direct relationship” between the crime committed and the occupation.

It would be difficult to discuss all of the potential collateral consequences of felony convictions, but other repercussions include:

  • Loss of the right to serve on a grand jury
  • Ineligibility to enlist in the armed services
  • Loss of federal licenses
  • Inability to participate in federal spending and defense contracts

A felony conviction can drastically affect nearly every aspect of your life. With so much at stake, it is imperative that you do everything you can to fight the charges. If you or a loved one is charged with a felony, it is vital that you contact one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys. Not only will we help you understand the consequences of the crime with which you are charged, we will strive to give you the legal defense that you deserve.

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