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August 26, 2009

Uniform Law Commission passes important act concerning collateral consequences

As detailed in this press release, earlier this summer the Uniform Law Commission finalized and approved the Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act.  Here is some background and the basic details from the release:

 [This Act] addresses the consequences of the conviction of a crime that are imposed by law in addition to direct penalties imposed by the judge. Traditionally, offenders are sentenced to fines, probation, and jail or prison terms. When this punishment is complete, as far as the criminal justice system is concerned, the offender has done the time and repaid his or her debt to society. However, today’s offenders learn — often too late — that they have only begun to suffer the consequences of their convictions after they have served their sentences. More and more, states are imposing subsequent penalties and disabilities on those convicted of particular crimes. These “collateral consequences” are in addition to those imposed at sentencing.  The sanctions vary from state to state, but they generally relate to restrictions on voting, occupational licensing, vehicle licensing, firearm restrictions, offender registration, and public benefits.  Preliminary studies show that, in many states, literally hundreds of these consequences may apply.  Unlike direct consequences of conviction, collateral consequences are often unknown, may prove devastating, and often last a lifetime.

To deal with this issue, the Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act was approved by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) at its 118th Annual Meeting.... The provisions of the Uniform Act are largely procedural, and designed to rationalize and clarify polices and provisions which are already widely accepted in the states.

The Act includes provisions to ensure that defendants are aware of the existence of collateral sanctions before conviction, are reminded of them at release, govern the effect of out of state convictions, and provide limited means by which some offenders may obtain relief from many such consequences.

More details and documents concerning these issues can be found on this page at the website of The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.

This new Act is especially timely and important as policy-makers consider reforming their sentencing laws in light of budget woes and as everyone focuses more on ways to improve prisoner reentry.  In addition, the important case of Padilla v. Kentucky (SCOTUSwiki coverage here), which concerns a defense lawyer's obligation to inform a defendant of certain consequences of pleading guilty, could have a big impact on how states and lawyers can and should be approaching these issues.

August 26, 2009 at 03:33 PM | Permalink


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I'd wager most citizens accused of crimes and virtualy all ex-cons are well aware of the debilitating and indelible "collateral consequences" of a conviction.

So if the panel's primary mission is to rub people's noses in the doodie that awaits them, why bother?

One hopeful sign is the panel's apparently faint-hearted (collateral?) intention "to provide LIMITED means by which SOME offenders MAY obtain relief from many such consequences."

Whoa! Easy their, boys. Might wake up the demagogues with that one.

The way we hound, hobble and haunt citizens spit out by the justice system it's a wonder the recidivism rate isn't closer to 100 percent.

Posted by: John K | Aug 27, 2009 12:16:13 PM

As a former offender, and as an advocate for improved opportunities for the successful reentry of former prisoners into our communities, I appreciate the attention brought to this topic. To amplify a point made by John K above, the Report of the Reentry Policy Council, too, expresses amazement that--given the host of difficulties encountered in the process of prisoner reentry--reentering persons succeed to the extent that we do.

Please continue to communicate the information that is crucial to the public education needed to create a more enlightened consensus and public policy.

Posted by: James | Sep 5, 2009 2:22:06 PM

Thought you might like this one.

Posted by: Richard Melli | Jun 29, 2010 4:33:30 PM

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