Unfortunately, a criminal conviction in Florida doesn’t just end with a jail term, a fine or community service; a record can follow someone for years or even a lifetime. Just about anyone can see criminal history records unless the court seals them.
Understanding collateral consequences
Collateral consequences (also known as collateral sanctions) are the additional punishments that accompany a criminal record. For example, a first-time DUI offense can only lead to 180 days of license revocation or 30 days in jail, but the offender’s name can stay indefinitely on public criminal records.
Examples of collateral consequences in Florida
The first one is losing one’s right to vote. The law argues that voting is a privilege only citizens who work hard to build the nation can do. As such, lawmakers argue that people who have gone against the law should not have the right to influence it.
Another consequence is professional or academic license revocations. Depending on the offense, many professions and degree programs require criminal background checks before admission. If a person’s results contain certain felonies, like fraud or drug trafficking, their licensing board can deny them practice licenses even if the court already served their sentence.
The same applies to employment. Even if a person was already working, they may lose their job if their employer learns about the conviction.
Lastly, people with criminal records may have difficulty getting loans or mortgages. A bank or lender can consider a person’s criminal background while reviewing the application and deny it or charge high-interest rates to compensate for the risk of dealing with someone with prior convictions.
How to deal with it
If there’s any chance, a criminal defense attorney can help the convicted individual challenge the court’s decision and have the charges dropped or reduced. They can reopen the case if new evidence is available or the lawyer finds a loophole.
An attorney may be able to propose a plea bargain for a lesser sentence if the prosecutor has overwhelming evidence. This can significantly reduce the impact of any collateral consequences and even have the records sealed if they meet the court’s conditions.
Having a criminal record is not something that goes away overnight. However, people who understand all the possible implications of a conviction can find ways to minimize its effects and rebuild their lives.