Are collateral consequences considered during sentencing?
It is no secret that people do not always face the same consequences for committing the same crimes. Whether it be racial disparity, economic inequality, or something else entirely, there are always factors to consider when analyzing what affects sentencing outcomes.
What are collateral consequences?
Imagine that two young men are both arrested for the same crime, for example—marijuana possession. They both have a clear criminal history and this is their first offense, but one of them is a naturalized citizen and one of them is here on a visa. While the naturalized citizen may face probation, fines, or jail time, the person in the country on a visa can be deported and separated from their family. Both committed the same crime, but the consequences for one are much more severe than for the other. This is one example of a disproportionate collateral consequence.
Collateral consequences are additional penalties that people face as consequences for a criminal conviction that are not direct consequences, such as prison, fines, or probation. These consequences are not always so severe as being removed from the country, and, in fact, they most often affect naturalized citizens.
Collateral consequences for citizens can include loss of job opportunities, denial of access to government benefits, loss of license privilege, and even an ineligibility to vote (this is not an exhaustive list). Anything that is an indirect consequence of the criminal conviction is a collateral consequence.
Do courts consider collateral consequences in sentencing?
There is no one answer to this question; some judges will consider the collateral consequences that will affect defendants when sentencing and some will not.
More recently, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges are beginning to work to ensure that collateral consequences are taken into consideration. This can be seen in Minnesota by proposed bills such as the Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act and policies by county attorneys and supported by county commissioners.
If you find yourself facing a criminal charge and need support in defending yourself against possible direct and collateral consequences, reach out to an attorney here.