Johnson County Courthouse

Johnson County Courthouse
Johnson County Courthouse

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Collateral Consequences of Iowa Criminal Convictions



Collateral Consequences of an Iowa Criminal Conviction: The Hidden Penalties

One of the many lessons I learned in my 6 ½ years as a Public Defender in Alaska is that the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction are often the most important aspect of a case for a client. Sure, everyone wants their case to be dismissed. Yet for many clients avoiding some of the consequences not listed in their judgment or sentencing order is actually more important than keeping a clean criminal record or avoiding jail time. 

For instance, a felony conviction results in the loss of the right to possess a firearm.  This can have devastating consequences to members of the armed forces, as it can lead to their discharge from the military, and sportsmen as it can impair their ability to hunt.  Another important collateral consequence of a criminal conviction is that drug convictions can result in the loss of federal financial aid. This is an especially important consideration for many of my clients at Hayes Lorenzen Lawyers in Iowa City who attend the University of Iowa. Collateral consequences of criminal convictions can even impair your vacation plans.  Many people don’t know this, but an OWI conviction in America can result in an American citizen being denied entry into Canada.  When I practiced in Alaska this would sometimes prove disruptive to clients with family or work responsibilities in Canada. 

There are countless other examples of the jarring impact of the collateral consequences of criminal convictions ranging from potential problems in obtaining public housing to driver’s license issues with certain criminal convictions. With all of these somewhat “hidden” penalties,  the decision to “go it alone” without the assistance of an attorney after a criminal charge is perilous. Simply put, a seemingly lenient sentence that a defendant obtains without the assistance of an attorney that avoids jail and just results in a fine and/or probation could generate a series of unwelcome surprises in the future.  

This is why it is so important to seek the advice of an experienced attorney after being charged with a crime.  An experienced criminal defense attorney should be able to educate clients about these collateral consequences and can sometimes craft a resolution to the client’s criminal charge that avoids these collateral consequences.

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