Collateral Consequences Addressed by Website, Legislation

collateral consequences website and legislation

Photo: trudi1

While finding out the fines and prison sentences for a criminal conviction may be easily done without the need for contacting an attorney, one area that many people aren’t aware of before going into a trial (or after being convicted) are the collateral consequences of a conviction. These are the societal repercussions of being convicted of a crime after the fact, separate from the fines and prison time.

However, a new website developed by the American Bar Association (ABA) Criminal Justice Section hopes to make these consequences much clearer in an effort to assist not only the individual concerned but also lawyers, lawmakers, and advocacy groups. The Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act (UCCCA) is also addressing similar issues on a larger scale.

Collateral Consequences State-by-State

According to a report by the Uniform Law Commission (the proponents of the Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act), the Department of Justice has estimated that if imprisonment rates as measured in 2001 continue along the same path, approximately 6.6% of Americans born in that year will serve some form of prison time during their lives. Besides those serving time, a 2003 Department of Justice report stated that nearly 25% of the U.S. population had a criminal record.

That latter statistic plays heavily into the concerns regarding collateral consequences, as they may be imposed on an individual for being convicted of a crime even if the punishment for said crime doesn’t include prison time. Such consequences may include, but are not limited to, denial of the following:

  • employment
  • certain forms of professional licenses
  • acceptance to higher education institutions and financial aid
  • other forms of government assistance
  • housing

As it currently stands, many judges and lawyers are unaware of the full implications of collateral consequences in their jurisdictions as well of those of other states. This is where the free database developed by the ABA Criminal Justice Section enters the picture. Here a user can click on a state and see a full listing of the state’s collateral consequences.

For example, clicking on the state of Utah brings up 688 examples of such consequences. While some would be expected, such as the inability to serve as a law enforcement officer or lawyer with a felony conviction, some may come as a surprise to people, such as the inability to get a cosmetologist or fingernail technician license with a controlled substances offense.

According to ABA President William C. Hubbard, “While some collateral consequences of conviction serve meaningful public safety goals, many only limit a formerly incarcerated person’s ability to find work and reintegrate into society … This, in turn, imposes high social and economic costs including increased crime, increased victimization, increased family distress, and increased pressure on already-strained state and municipal budgets.”

The Universal Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act

In 2009, the Uniform Law Commission, a non-partisan group of lawyers, judges, legislators, and law professors, promoted an attempt to remedy the problems being caused by out-of-control collateral consequences. This remedy was known as the Universal Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act (UCCCA).

According to the Uniform Law Commission website, in a nutshell, the UCCCA “provides states with a process whereby defendants are both notified of indirect penalties [read: collateral consequences] that may attach to their convictions, and have an opportunity for partial relief from those penalties, when appropriate.”

In order to bring this about, the UCCCA addresses several aspects of collateral consequences, including:

  • Collection in one document of all collateral consequences in state law and regulations, and provisions for avoiding or mitigating them.
  • Notification for defendants of such consequences at key points in a criminal case, including at or before formal notification of charges and again at sentencing. Section 5 of the UCCCA instructs trial courts to confirm that the defendant has received such notification and has the opportunity to discuss the consequences with counsel.
  • Standards that decision-makers for such things as housing or employment must follow when considering imposing collateral consequences. The essential elements, facts, or circumstances of the person’s crime must be related to the benefit or opportunity at issue before disqualifying them.
  • Relief from collateral consequences that may come about if a conviction has been overturned or pardoned, or if charges have been dismissed pursuant to deferred prosecution or a diversion program.
  • In addition, UCCCA created two different forms of specific relief. An Order of Limited Relief allows a court or agency to lift an automatic barring of a collateral sanction, allowing licensing or housing agencies to consider whether to uphold the sanction. A Certificate of Restoration of Rights provides public and private employers, landlords and licensing agencies with “concrete and objective information about an individual under consideration for an opportunity or benefit” including their progress toward rehabilitation, in an attempt to help those individuals reintegrate into society.

Currently the UCCCA has been endorsed by the ABA; introduced in Minnesota, New York, and the U.S. Virgin Islands; and enacted in Vermont. The Uniform Law Commission hopes that more states will continue to enact the UCCCA in an attempt to increase clarity regarding collateral consequences, fairness and competence in legal representation, and successful reintegration for ex-offenders who have proven that they are capable of re-entering society.

Burglary Charges for Man Who Used Truck as Part of Crime

burglary charges for man and truck

Photo: Brian Reading/Wikimedia Commons

A man was arrested early Sunday morning, Dec. 14, after being caught in the act of burglary. He had used his truck to force entry into the business where he was caught, but apparently it wasn’t his first act of burglary committed that morning by him and his truck.

Too Much “Knight Rider.” Or “Dukes of Hazzard.”

At approximately 2:21 on Sunday morning, police responded to an alarm at Guitar Center. When the officer arrived, he saw Tyler Cook, 31, with his arms full of guitars. Cook had used his White Chevy Tahoe and a chain to pull the doors and a security gate off the building.

When Cook saw the officer, he dropped the guitars and made a run for his Tahoe, which was still running. The officer shouted for Cook to exit the vehicle, but instead Cook reversed the Tahoe and nearly ran over the officer. Another officer who arrived at the scene pursued Cook, eventually spinning the Tahoe out near 1900 W. and 5400 S.

Police booked Cook on charges of burglary, trying to run over an officer, and fleeing police. Later it was discovered that he was allegedly also responsible for using his truck to drive through the doors of a General Army Navy Outdoor Store just before heading to Guitar Center.

Cook is also suspected of the burglary of three other pawn shops in the past week.

Burglary is a Felony, No Matter What.

According to Utah Criminal Code 76-6-202, burglary is considered an “offense against property,” and is defined as entering and remaining unlawfully in a building with intent to commit theft, assault, lewdness, sexual battery, or voyeurism. Burglary is considered a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and fines of up to $5,000. However, if the burglary was committed in a dwelling, it is a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years and up to $10,000 in fines.

The key phrase in these punishments is obviously “up to.” If you or someone you know has been charged with burglary, don’t leave your fate in the hands of a public defender. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who will look out for your best interests.

North Carolina Lawyer Suspended for Sexting Clients

North Carolina lawyer sexting

Photo: Alton/Wikimedia Commons

A North Carolina lawyer was recently suspended for five years after accusations of sending sexually explicit texts, a practice known as sexting, to clients. In addition, the Disciplinary Commission of the North Carolina State Bar found that the lawyer, Christopher Rahilly, had had also had sex with one of the clients and written off legal fees without authorization. While unrelated to the incident, the law firm where the lawyer was formerly an associate has experienced more problems in recent months.

Sexting: The Good, the Bad, and the Unwanted

A quick internet search of the term “sexting” brings up more articles about how to successfully do it to enhance one’s love life than it does about the potential legal or personal ramifications. At the top of the search results is an article from New York Magazine for adults on how to “sext” like a teen. A Cosmopolitan article advises its readers on how to send sexy texts. A dating site gives tips on sexting etiquette. Of course, Wikipedia is in the top results, defining sexting as “the act of sending sexually explicit messages … a portmanteau of sex and texting, where the latter is meant in the wide sense of sending a text possibly with images.”

However, a little deeper search starts to reveal the darker side of sexting. Words start popping up like “revenge,” “unwanted advances,” and “non-consensual.” As recently as Dec. 10, a Colorado Springs band coach was convicted of sexting with a student, a criminal charge of sexual exploitation of a child. This isn’t the first case to make the news, and when teachers have been found guilty of exchanging sexts as opposed to just sending them, the possession of such texts often leads to child pornography charges.

A Question of Power

According to a report in the ABA Journal, Christopher Rahilly was working for the Twiford Law Firm when he was accused of sexting three separate clients. The Disciplinary Commission found that he had been sending “full-length nudes and graphic pictures of his erect penis”. In addition, he had sent sexually suggestive texts describing dreams he had with the client in question and propositioning her to have sexual intercourse with him in his office, something which allegedly happened, even while Rahilly continued to represent the client.

John Morrison of the Twiford Law Firm told the ABA Journal that his firm found about the sexting allegations in August of 2013 when a referred client said she didn’t want to be represented by Rahilly. Morrison said the law firm took immediate action, beginning an investigation which resulted in the firing of Rahilly and referral of the matter to the state bar. Besides the incidents of sexting, Rahilly allegedly also asked one of the firm’s bookkeepers to write off a $4,500 bill for a client who had apparently complained to Rahilly about the behavior. Morrison said that Rahilly had been working for Twiford Law Firm for approximately three years.

In the case of Christopher Rahilly, what is disturbing to many is the fact that he held a position of power. At the time of the incidents, Rahilly was representing clients in domestic cases, including divorce, child custody and adoption. The client with whom he allegedly had sex had sought Rahilly’s counsel in a child custody case. The ABA Journal report called these clients “particularly vulnerable” because of the sensitive nature of their court cases and the fact that so much depended on how Rahilly handled those cases.

Rahilly has been unavailable for comment from local news reporters or the ABA Journal.

Twiford Law Firm made headlines again in October of 2014 when the boyfriend of one of the firm’s previous clients lit his truck on fire and drove it into the offices of the Moyock, North Carolina, location. According to a family member, Alan Boyd Lanier felt that the firm hadn’t treated his former girlfriend fairly. Lanier died as a result of the incident.

Morrison called the incident with Lanier “totally unrelated” to the sexting incident involving Rahilly.