If you are facing misdemeanor charges in California, you may believe that a conviction is a minor notation on your record and not a serious offense. It may surprise you to find that it could limit your earning potential, your ability to buy a home or your ability to qualify for a loan for the rest of your life.
Legal disabilities imposed as a result of a criminal conviction are collateral consequences which can become a barrier that prevents you from leading the life you want. Although the ramifications of a criminal conviction are commonly considered when discussing felony charges, even a misdemeanor on your record can limit civil liberties and disqualify you from specific jobs.
Understanding the consequences of a conviction is challenging as the statutes on this subject are vast and complex. Depending on the facts of your case, the enforced restrictions can include:
- Custody or adoption restrictions
- Limited residency options
- Registering your domicile
- Exclusion from government contracts and programs
Business owners, doctors, lawyers and similar professionals may face significant limitations in addition to those listed above. These consequences remain, even if you plead guilty and avoid jail time, as they result from the conviction, not the sentencing details. For example, you could lose your earning ability if you have a professional license, as a conviction may result in its revocation or suspension. If you plan to pursue higher education, you may become ineligible for federal student loans.
Collateral consequences can have greater punitive impact than the actual court-imposed sentence. Plea negotiations should include discussion of the potential restrictions to provide the opportunity to minimize them.