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Post-Conviction Impact of Felony Convictions

Felonies result in a lifetime of personal stagnation and social ostracism. One of the most troubling and harmful consequences of a felony conviction is that those convicted of felonies find themselves more or less permanently relegated to a lifetime as a sub-class citizen. The unfortunate reality is that the debt to society is not considered paid when the prison sentence has been served, and the probationary term has been successfully completed. That is merely when the secondary consequences of a felony conviction really start. Felons are stripped of certain constitutional rights, such as the right to purchase and possess firearms. Although many of those rights can be restored, it may be DECADES before it is possible to restore the rights to pre-conviction conditions. Moreover, if the felony is a sex offense, the offender will be a registered sex offender in the public registry in addition to the standard restrictions imposed on other felons. Some sex-offenses can never be expunged under the new federal guidelines, and those offenders may never seek relief from the sex-offender registry. Regardless of the type and temperament of the felony, the long-term impacts of a conviction will include employment disenfranchisement, housing restrictions, and the dissolution of certain constitutional rights. Moreover, the status of a Felon is a life sentence.

What is a Felony?

Crimes are not all sentenced the same. Some infractions result in citations, whereas others result in prison and death. A felony is the most severe class of crime. And a person convicted of a felony can be sentenced to prison for an amount of time that ranges widely depending on the kind and caliber of offense. Some felonies are violent in nature, like murder and rape, whereas others may be more innocuous, such as a conviction for repeated drug possession. Regardless of the underlying conviction, a felony has profound effects on a person’s future success and immediate happiness for the rest of their life.

How Will a Felony Effect Employment Opportunities?

This is the most immediate and crippling impact facing most felons when they get out of prison. Most employers are understandably reluctant to hire folks with troubled backgrounds, and that bias can make it extremely difficult to get a fresh start. When a felon is unable to find legitimate work—let alone work that pays decent and nourishes their personal development—turning towards more lucrative illicit avenues becomes increasingly more attractive. The cycle often continues.

Reintegrating with society is an almost absurd challenge to heap upon convicted felons. A criminal background will make employment extremely difficult to come by. No one wants to hire a felon, and many companies make it an explicit policy to NOT hire those convicted of certain felonies. Hiring felons may render an employer personally liable for negligent hiring practices in the event of any mishap. On the other hand, employers typically do not carpet ban all felons from the hiring process because that approach could, in turn, leave that employer vulnerable to discrimination claims. Instead, employers merely hire comparably qualified applicants who do not have criminal backgrounds— inoculating the employer against discrimination claims. It is not against the law to discriminate against felons, and as such, there is very little legal recourse for those experiencing employment discrimination as a result of their criminal background. Consequently, most employers simply refuse to expose themselves to civil liability and choose instead to unofficially exclude felons writ large from the purview of their supervision. Criminal background can, and generally will prevent someone from finding any gainful employment. Is sum, felony convictions take an otherwise successful individual, and strip them of almost any opportunity for growth or happiness.

Will a Felony Effect Housing?

Unsurprisingly, housing opportunities are also severely restricted by criminal history. Many rental companies refuse to rent to folks with a criminal background because it creates a liability for the landlords. Very few landlords and rental companies are willing to take on the liability of renting to those with felonious backgrounds. The option of owning a home after being convicted of a felony is likewise an unlikely possibility. Many banking institutions refuse to lend to convicted felons due to the statistical likelihood that an applicant with a felony will encounter severe financial hardship as a result of their conviction. Furthermore, landlords willing to rent to those with sordid pasts often do so carte blanche, and will often take any applicant. This places many people with criminal backgrounds in close proximity to one another. This is problematic for many reasons, not the least of which being that reintegration with non-criminal society is difficult for an offender when they are systemically ostracized by normative communities and forced to reside alongside persons with tendencies toward deviant behavior. The obscene reality is that convicted felons must struggle to remain safely housed– and without family and friends, most felons become homeless, or worse— back in prison.

Do Felons Lose Their Constitutional Rights?

Yes—those convicted of felonies can have their rights as citizens dissolved. The 14th Amendment of the constitution prevents the government from depriving a citizen of life, liberty, or property without due process. However, once due process has been satisfied, such as when a felon is convicted in open court, the government is authorized to strip a citizen of everything they are as a human being—including their very life.

Certain rights are stripped from every felon including the right to vote and the right to own firearms. While the more immediate and visceral restriction of losing access to firearms is personally grating, the most troubling restriction to the larger socially paradigm is the loss of voting rights. By restricting felons accessing voting, millions of people who have personally felt the consequence of our institutional failings are deprived of any opportunity to enact change in those institutions. The idiosyncrasies of the American justice system are neither uniformly coherent. nor are they always productive.

What to do About a Felony Conviction?

Life after prison does not have to be a life sentence to failure and drudgery. Although there are substantial barriers to a felon’s success—there is hope!

At Wasatch Defense Lawyers we can seek post-conviction relief and conduct expungements. It is not fair, nor socially desirable, to trap citizens in an inescapable cycle of arbitrary punishment, and Wasatch Defense Lawyers are committed to getting our clients out of the cycle, and on with their lives.

Craig R. Chlarson