Life After a Conviction: Collateral Consequences After Being Released

Ex-convicts who have been arrested and sentenced in Utah may face what are known as collateral consequences after being released back into the community; making life after a conviction miserable for those attempting to rebuild their lives.

Criminal penalties and time served

Photo by: Blogtrepeneur

Every crime that is committed is countered with legal ramifications that range from probation and community service to a hefty fine and predetermined stint behind bars. Criminal penalties are a direct consequence of a conviction and can vary depending on what law has been broken and whether or not there are multiple charges or subsequent offenses. Once a defendant is sentenced for their wrong-doing, they then carry out their sentence as a sort of legal penance for their misconducts.

Almost free – AP&P

Often when someone has been sentenced or following a period of incarceration, they are sometimes released early on what is known as either probation or parole; both of which grant a convicted person restricted freedom. There are special conditions attached to being on probation and parole that a convicted individual must follow in order to retain their pseudo independence and work towards their complete release. According to the Utah Department of Corrections, the conditions of probation and parole may include:

• Abstaining from controlled substances and submitting drug tests when requested;
• Refrain from owning any dangerous weapons;
• Not associate with those who are involved with criminal activity;
• Obeying curfew that is set by the AP&P officer; and
• Allowing AP&P officers to visit the offender’s home or work to ensure they are abiding by the rules associated with probation or parole.

Parole conditions also include:

• Living only at an approved residence;
• Obtaining permission before leaving the state;
• Maintaining regular full time employment; and
• Allowing random searches of their person or belongings.

AP&P officers enforce these strict rules and expect regular reporting by offenders until their time on probation and parole are finished.

Life on the outside

Photo by: Hartwig HKD

After completing a stint behind bars or following a successful period on probation or parole, a person who has been legally convicted of a crime is then released back into the community and expected to try and live a normal life. Returning to the free world after a lengthy period of time can be a difficult experience for ex-convicts however. They are often returning to lost jobs and/or homes as well as broken families and public shame. If this isn’t enough, ex-convicts also face what is known as collateral consequences of their conviction that make life after release even more unbearable.

Collateral consequences – civil punishment after release

According to the National Institute of Justice, “Criminal conviction brings with it a host of sanctions and disqualifications that can place an unanticipated burden on individuals trying to re-enter society and lead lives as productive citizens.” These unfamiliar burdens post-conviction are known as collateral consequences. Collateral consequences are civil penalties carried out by the state that are not always mentioned in court. NIJ also stated that collateral consequences “attach not only to felonies and incarcerated individuals but also to misdemeanors and individuals who have never been incarcerated.” Some collateral consequences are well known such as convicted felons not being able to possess firearms or serve on a jury. Others are unexpected and not reserved only for felons.

The harsh reality post-conviction

Photo by: Kathryn Decker

The Utah Sentencing Commission released a document in 2014 that lists 15 difference areas of life that will be affected by having a criminal record. They also listed the the amount of collateral consequences for each area:

Area and number of collateral consequences

• “Employment                                                     435
• Occupational and professional licensing  273
• Business licensing and property rights     234
• Government programs                                     14
• Government loans and grants                         3
• Judicial rights                                                      21
• Government benefits                                         7
• Education                                                             18
• Political/civic participation                            68
• Housing                                                                22
• Family/domestic rights                                   35
• Recreational license/firearms                       20
• Registration and residency restrictions     63
• Motor vehicle licensure                                   41
• General relief provision                                  20
Total                                                                   1,274

Every one of these areas that are critical to living a normal life is affected when a person is a convicted felon. Surprisingly, 12 out of 15 listed areas have collateral consequences for those who have simple misdemeanor conviction on their record.

Legal counsel

It is vital for anyone facing criminal charges to know the ramifications that any charge can carry, whether those implications are criminal penalties or collateral consequences. Before pleading guilty or accepting a plea bargain, discuss all possible criminal and collateral consequences first with an experienced a criminal defense attorney

Communications Fraud and Theft from a Utah School District

A southern Utah man was placed being bars Friday for communications fraud as well as theft after he installed audio and video equipment for a school district that was inferior to what they had purchased.

Not what they ordered

Communications Fraud

Photo by: MiNe

An investigation into Dustin Taylor, a former manager of a St. George company that sells audio and video systems began last year after the Washington County School District as well as a local theater company discovered that although they had ordered high quality equipment for their facilities, what ended up being installed was far lower value. Police discovered Taylor had been running his own business on the side and had allegedly taken the better equipment before installing it for a job contract through his side business. Taylor was arrested for communications fraud as well as multiple charges of theft.

Communications fraud

Utah Code 76-10-1801 states “Any person who has devised any scheme or artifice to defraud another or to obtain from another money, property, or anything of value by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, promises, or material omissions, and who communicates directly or indirectly with any person by any means for the purpose of executing or concealing the scheme or artifice is guilty of:

a) A class B misdemeanor when the value of the property ( . . . ) is less than $500;

b) A class A misdemeanor when the value ( . . . ) is [between $500 and $1,500];

c) A third degree felony when the value ( . . . ) is [between $1,500 and $5,000];

d) A second degree felony when the value of the property ( . . . ) exceeds $5,000.

The monetary loss of the customers who were defrauded by Taylor was estimated to be around $34,000.

Theft by deception

Not only did Taylor deceive customers by installing inferior equipment, but he took the high quality equipment from the company he was working for to install elsewhere without their knowledge. As Utah Code 76-6-405 states, he “obtain[ed] or exercise[d] control over property of another person: by deception; and with a purpose to deprive the other person of property.” The charges for theft by deception depend on the value of the item stolen and are identical to the charges by value for communications fraud. In Taylor’s case, the value of the audio and video equipment that Taylor had appropriated and resold or had in his possession was estimated to be as high as $89,000. This resulted in multiple theft charges; each being another second degree felony. Each second degree felony charge for communications fraud and theft is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.

Reduced sentencing for first-time offender

Photo by: Mark Strozier

Photo by: Mark Strozier

It is unknown whether Taylor intentionally concocted a plan to deceive the school district and other companies or if an opportunity to make more money fell into his lap and he thought no one would be the wiser. Either way, what he did was against the law and he risked spending nearly a lifetime in jail, especially if his sentences were to be run consecutively. Fortunately, Taylor had a clean record and was an outstanding citizen prior to his theft and communications fraud charges. This was likely his saving grace.

What a deal

As part of a plea deal that reduced his charges to third degree felonies, Taylor was sentenced for up to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000 for communications fraud and five years each for multiple theft charges as well. The judge also ordered these to be run consecutively. Following this sentencing, the judge changed the sentencing to a single term of a five months and then even further reduced the prison term to 60 days for the 39 year old father of four. After his two months in jail which began Friday, Taylor is ordered to be on probation for three years and offer 100 hours of community service. He was also ordered to write letters of apology to the customers he victimized. For multiple second degree felonies to end in a single two month prison sentence is incredible. The probable explanation for the judge’s mercy, beyond the obvious help of an experienced defense attorney, is likely due to Taylor’s lack of a criminal record prior to the communication fraud and theft charges. For anyone facing charges that seem too immense to handle, don’t lose hope until discussing what a criminal defense attorney can do for you.

Law Enforcement Use of GPS Tracking Devices

Law enforcement officers have different measures to obtain information about a potential suspect including the use of “slap-on” GPS tracking devices attached to vehicles. Without a warrant however, this practice may constitute a violation of the suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights regarding unreasonable searches.

GPS tracking devices

Photo by: Surrey County Council News

Photo by: Surrey County Council News

The “slap-on” GPS tracking devices are mechanisms that can be placed inconspicuously on the undercarriage of a vehicle allowing police the ability to track the movement and location of said vehicle. These tracking tools allow law enforcement to keep tabs on potential suspects over an extended period of time and can be used to learn the whereabouts of illegal activity.

Protection from unreasonable searches

For several years, “slap-on” GPS tracking devices were under debate, with many claiming they violated a person’s Fourth Amendment rights regarding unreasonable searches. The Fourth Amendment states “The right of the people to be secure ( . . . ) against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause ( . . . ). In October of 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals agreed that GPS tracking devices constituted a “search” and law enforcement must obtain a warrant based on probable cause before placing such devices on a vehicle.

Ankle monitors

Photo by: Washington State House Republican

Photo by: Washington State House Republican

While tracking devices on vehicles were deemed unconstitutional without a warrant, the question was raised whether or not SBM monitors, commonly referred to as ankle monitors should fall under the same scrutiny (Grady v. North Carolina). Each state has their own specific uses for electronic tracking in the form of ankle monitors. Some states use these devices to forever track the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders after they have finished their sentencing. Other states such as Utah permit law enforcement to use ankle monitors on individuals placed on probation. (Utah Code 77-18-1.16)

Grey area

As law enforcement’s use of electronic searches is being evaluated, it is wise to consult with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to ensure that your rights are not being violated by the use of tracking devices or other means of technological trespass.