Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to participate in a national roundtable, sponsored by the American Law Institute and National Conference of State Legislatures, on current and possible approaches to relieving the consequences of a criminal conviction. We considered three basic approaches: “forgetting” convictions by expunging them or limiting access to information about them; “forgiving” convictions through, among other things, certificates of relief, also known as certificates of rehabilitation; and “forgoing” convictions by diverting matters before conviction or decriminalizing them altogether. In its recently-completed legislative session, the North Carolina General Assembly expanded the forgiveness approach by making it easier to get a certificate of relief. Read on for more about this relatively new relief mechanism. If you’re interested in approaches elsewhere, the papers submitted by the various scholars and practitioners invited to the roundtable were recently published in the Federal Sentencing Reporter, available here. You can read my paper about North Carolina here. Continue reading
Tag Archives: collateral consequences
I am excited to announce the release of the 2017 edition of our manual, specific to North Carolina law and practice, on the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction. We hope that this online manual, which can be viewed at no charge, will be a useful resource in understanding this challenging area of law. Continue reading →
Prosecutors have wide discretion to decide how to charge defendants. In exercising that discretion, a prosecutor certainly may consider the sentence associated with each possible charge, and may choose to pursue the charge or charges that is most likely to result in the outcome that the prosecutor sees as just. But the criminal sentence may not be the only outcome of a criminal case. A variety of collateral consequences may be imposed by law, such a change in immigration status, a requirement to register as a sex offender, or loss of professional licensure. Other consequences may also follow certain convictions, such as loss of employment or housing. May prosecutors consider collateral consequences when making charging decisions and when evaluating possible plea bargains? Should they do so? Must they? Continue reading →
Several years ago the School obtained a grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation to create an online, searchable database of the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction in North Carolina. In 2012, after two years of legal and IT work, we launched the Collateral Consequences Assessment Tool, or C-CAT for short, to assist attorneys, reentry professionals, affected individuals, and policymakers in understanding the impact of a criminal conviction. We’re happy to announce we have given C-CAT a new look. It is available, still at no charge, at http://ccat.sog.unc.edu/. Continue reading →
Almost all states place some limitation on felons’ right to vote. Those limitations—which can be traced from ancient political traditions of “civil death” for certain crimes to more recent history in the post-Reconstruction United States—vary widely from state to state. They are sometimes controversial. For example, litigation involving Virginia’s restriction was mentioned in the July 29 News Roundup, with a follow-up on the ensuing executive action from the Washington Post here. Politics aside, today’s post covers some of the technical contours of North Carolina’s voting law for felons. Continue reading →
For a presentation I did recently on termination of sex offender registration requirements, I decided to see what requirements and restrictions a person is subject to under North Carolina law if convicted of an offense subject to sex offender registration. The results are too long for a single blog post, but you can find the entire list of consequences of a conviction here.
The list is not intended to provide detailed guidance on how the consequences are being interpreted and applied by the courts, probation, law enforcement, and other entities. Some of the consequences—for example, restrictions on use of social media websites and participation in religious activities when children are present—are the subject of legal challenges. The list may be useful, however, in understanding and advising people about the range of consequences that follow from conviction of an offense subject to registration.
The consequences of an offense subject to registration fall into four basic categories, described in more detail in the list:
- enhanced criminal sentences and conditions;
- registration requirements;
- satellite-based monitoring; and
- residence, premises, employment, and other restrictions.
Violation of these requirements and restrictions may result in prosecution for additional offenses. For example, failing to comply with registration requirements is usually a Class F felony, interfering with a satellite monitoring device is a Class E felony, and being on certain prohibited premises is a Class H felony.
Termination of registration extinguishes most of the consequences and accompanying penalties but not all of them. For example, the record of conviction is permanent; a person ordinarily may not expunge a conviction of an offense subject to sex offender registration, whether or not the person is still required to register. (A person may be eligible for an expunction of a misdemeanor conviction if the offense was committed before age 18.)
You can also view the list of consequences as well as other reference materials on sex offender registration and monitoring (thanks to my colleague, Jamie Markham) through the School of Government’s Collateral Consequences Assessment Tool (C-CAT), a free, searchable database of the collateral consequences of a conviction in North Carolina. For those who may have visited the site before, we have removed the subscription and log-in requirements to make C-CAT easier to use.
A new guide on obtaining relief from a criminal conviction—Relief from a Criminal Conviction: A Digital Guide to Expunctions, Certificates of Relief, and Other Procedures in North Carolina—is now available from the School of Government. This online tool explains in one place the mechanisms available in North Carolina for obtaining relief from a criminal conviction, including expunctions, certificates of relief, and petitions to restore rights or eliminate restrictions.
Features of this guide include:
- Keyword searching
- Links to internal and external cross-references
- Printable pages throughout the site
- Accessibility from anywhere your electronic device can connect to the Internet
The guide is available at no charge here.
The new guide supplements the School’s Collateral Consequences Assessment Tool (C-CAT), an online tool created to help attorneys, service providers, affected individuals, and others assess the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction, such as bars to employment and professional licensure and loss of public benefits, among others. [Editor’s note: C-CAT was previously introduced on this blog here.]
To use C-CAT, you must go through a simple subscription process. The free subscription period, which was initially set to expire December 1, 2012, has been extended indefinitely. (A subscription will NOT convert automatically to a paid subscription. Should the School decide to charge for C-CAT, you will have the opportunity to decide whether to buy a paid subscription.)
You can subscribe to C-CAT at no charge here.
For your convenience, you can access both C-CAT and the new Relief from a Criminal Conviction Guide at the above website. (You may use the relief guide without subscribing to C-CAT.)
If you have questions or suggestions about either tool, please let us know.
The School of Government recently launched the Collateral Consequences Assessment Tool (C-CAT). But, what is a collateral consequence assessment tool? For that matter, what is a collateral consequence?
The Collateral Consequences Assessment Tool, or C-CAT, is a web-based tool that centralizes the collateral consequences imposed under North Carolina law for a criminal conviction. A collateral consequence is a civil penalty that deprives a person of certain rights or privileges and is imposed as the result of a criminal proceeding.
- The direct consequences of a conviction—the criminal sentence—may include imprisonment, probation, orders of restitution, and fines.
- The collateral consequences of a conviction may include bars to employment and professional licensure, voting disenfranchisement, and the loss of public benefits, which affect many areas of a person’s life.
The lack of a central repository of collateral consequences in North Carolina, which were scattered throughout the NC general statutes, made it difficult—if not impossible—for anyone to master the entire body of collateral consequences law. This one-stop resource will benefit all those who need to understand, or are affected by, collateral consequences. C-CAT was created to help attorneys, policymakers, service providers, and affected individuals identify, assess, and compile the collateral consequences that may be triggered by a criminal conviction.
C-CAT’s includes collateral consequences that affect civic, domestic, and education rights; employment and professional licensure; firearm, housing, and property rights; and public benefits. By organizing collateral consequences by categories of activities, privileges, and rights, C-CAT makes this wide-ranging area of law more accessible to everyone. Now, you can search collateral consequences by:
- Criminal characteristic (What if my client was convicted of a drug offense?)
- Collateral consequence (Will my client lose her housing subsidy?)
- Keyword (Will the conviction affect my client’s “financial aid for school”?)
C-CAT was made possible by a grant through the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and a network of generous sponsors. Thanks to their generosity and commitment, C-CAT is offered at no charge to users through December 31, 2012. Visit http://ccat.sog.unc.edu to sign up for access to C-CAT.
To request additional information about C-CAT, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2010, the Uniform Law Commission (also known as the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws) adopted the Uniform Collateral Consequence of Conviction Act to assist states in developing strategies for addressing the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction. Collateral consequences are effects that generally are not imposed as part of a criminal sentence but arise as a result of the criminal conviction and in many instances continue long after the person completes his or her sentence. North Carolina and other states impose a wide range of collateral consequences, such as licensing and employment bars and benefit disqualifications, for criminal convictions.
In the uniform act, the Uniform Law Commission recommended that states allow ex-offenders to apply for relief, according to specified criteria, from collateral consequences that could impede their ability to reintegrate into society. Effective December 1, 2011, the North Carolina General Assembly enacted such a procedure in new Article 6 of G.S. Chapter 15A (G.S. 15A-173.1 through 15A-173.6), allowing certain ex-offenders to apply to the court for a certificate of relief from collateral consequences. See S.L. 2011-265 (H 641). The North Carolina act is more limited than the uniform act, but it allows ex-offenders convicted of lower level felonies and misdemeanors to obtain some relief. Because the act does not contain any limiting language on the effective date of December 1, 2011, the procedure is available to ex-offenders who meet the requirements for relief whether their offenses or convictions occurred before or after that date.
The basic requirements for relief, contained in new G.S. 15A-173.2, are as follows:
- The person must have been convicted of no more than two Class G, H, or I felonies or misdemeanors in one session of court and have no other convictions for a felony or misdemeanor other than a traffic violation.
- The person must petition the court in which the convictions occurred—specifically, the senior resident superior court judge if the convictions were in superior court and the chief district court judge if the convictions were in district court. These judges may delegate their authority to hold hearings and issue, modify, or revoke certificates of relief to other judges or to clerks or magistrates in their district. The procedure for the filing and hearing of the petition, such as the giving of notice to the district attorney’s office, is described in new G.S. 15A-173.4. See also G.S. 15A-173.6 (requiring the victim witness coordinator in the district attorney’s office to give notice of the petition to the victim).
- The person must establish certain matters by a preponderance of the evidence, including that twelve months have passed since the person completed his or her sentence, that the person is engaged in or is seeking to engage in a lawful occupation or activity, and that the person has no criminal charges pending.
If granted, a certificate of relief applies to two types of collateral consequences: “collateral sanctions,” defined as a penalty, disability, or disqualification imposed by operation of law, such as a mandatory bar on obtaining a license for a particular occupation; and “disqualifications,” defined as a penalty that an agency, official, or court may impose based on the conviction, such as a discretionary bar on an occupational license. A certificate of relief relieves the person of all automatic “collateral sanctions” except for those listed in new G.S. 15A-173.3 (for example, sex offender registration requirements and firearm disqualifications); those imposed by the North Carolina Constitution or federal law (for example, the state constitutional ban on holding the office of sheriff if previously convicted of a felony and the federal bans on federally-assisted housing and food stamp benefits for certain convictions); and those specifically excluded in the certificate. A certificate of relief does not bar an entity from imposing a discretionary “disqualification” based on the conviction, but the entity may consider the certificate favorably in deciding whether to impose the disqualification. A certificate of relief also does not result in an expunction or pardon of the conviction; a person must use other mechanisms, if available for the conviction in question, to obtain those forms of relief.
Through a grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, the indigent defense education group at the UNC School of Government is developing a searchable, electronic database, specific to North Carolina, of the collateral consequences of criminal convictions. This collateral consequences assessment tool (C-CAT) will be available in early 2012. The database will assist people in identifying the collateral consequences that apply to different types of convictions and the potential relief available under the new certificate-of-relief procedure. For additional information about C-CAT, contact Whitney Fairbanks, Civil Defender Educator at the School of Government.