Collateral Consequences to White Collar Crimes
White collar crimes usually involve money crimes – financially harming a person or company rather than physically harming someone. For that reason, there is a misperception that a conviction for a white-collar crime is somehow less damaging than a conviction for a drug crime or physical assault. After all, many convictions are for first-time, nonviolent offenders – so why would there be lasting consequences?
Unfortunately, this could not be more wrong. Once an individual is labeled a convicted felon, the consequences are severe. Of course, there is the immediate concern for jail time and fines – but the repercussions of a criminal conviction are long-lasting. Getting a job after a felony conviction is often difficult, especially if the circumstances of your crime were stealing from your employer. This can have a rippling effect through life after prison. Unable to get a job, felons cannot support their family, will likely become depressed and committing another crime to make ends meet is an understandable temptation. This is all compounded by the fact that convicted felons are ineligible to receive any federal benefits – even student loans or financial aid.
Felony convictions also have an effect on someone’s immigration status. Many professionals are immigrants to the country, from doctors to computer programmers. If an immigrant is convicted of a crime, they are far more likely to be deported as a result. Felons also cannot possess a firearm. State agencies might refuse to grant someone a business or operating license if a high-level employee has a felony criminal conviction.
And of course, for most professionals, they also possess certain licenses. Doctors who have been convicted of healthcare fraud face losing their license and ability to practice medicine. This rings true across the board – nurses, lawyers, and financial brokers all have to register with various boards and professional oversight agencies. If they are convicted of a crime – any crime – they will almost always have to forfeit their licensure or receive some sort of suspension. It seems unfair in some ways for criminals who have the lowest recidivism rate, and perhaps the sentencing guidelines for a white-collar criminal should be re-examined in the same way that the sentencing guidelines for nonviolent drug offenses have been. In fact, a first-time nonviolent white-collar offender can actually receive a longer sentence that someone who has been convicted of manslaughter or sexual abuse.
Understanding the difficulties that a convicted felon faces for their entire life is crucial before accepting any kind of plea agreement from the government. Although you might avoid or limit the time spent in jail, the fact remains that significant privileges will be lost as a result of pleading ‘guilty’ to a felony. Even criminal defense lawyers can neglect to emphasize this to their clients, as their focus is generally trying to keep their client from spending time behind bars. Pleading guilty to any crime is a serious step, and should not be done without consulting a legal professional first.