When you are convicted of a crime in Mississippi, whether by pleading guilty or losing your criminal case, you will face direct consequences, such as fines, jail time, a prison sentence, or probation. But there are also practical additional ramifications of a criminal conviction, and these are often referred to as “collateral consequences.” These consequences aren’t imposed on you directly by the judge, but are basically negative effects on you as a direct result of your conviction itself.
The Mississippi Supreme Court has recently recognized the concept of “collateral consequences of a criminal conviction,” holding that a person must be informed of the material – or direct - consequences prior to entering a plea of guilty; conversely, there is no requirement that a defendant be informed of the collateral consequences. Specifically, the Court held that registration as a sex offender is a collateral consequence of a guilty plea; that is, the court does not have to make you aware of it before you make a decision as to whether you will plead guilty to a charge. See John Anthony Magyar v. State of Mississippi, (Miss. 2009).
So your lawyer has to do it. Part of being a good lawyer is keeping you informed so you make the best and most informed decision. From employment, to gun ownership, to student financial aid, to government benefits, a criminal conviction can have severe consequences for your livelihood and your plans for the future. Here are just some of the possible negative consequences of certain criminal convictions in Mississippi:
- Employment: Under Mississippi law, prospective employers may consider a criminal conviction as it relates to your suitability for employment in the position for which you have applied.
- Military Service: Federal law bars people from enlisting if they have been convicted of any felony, unless granted a waiver by the Secretary of Defense. 10 U.S.C. § 504.
- Student Financial Aid: Federal law prohibits anyone with a federal or state conviction involving the possession or sale of a controlled substance from receiving federal financial aid for post-secondary education for specified periods of time. This affects the ability to receive federal grants, loans, and work assistance.
- Professional Consequences: Licensed accountants, doctors, educators, lawyers, and nurses face a variety of disciplinary consequences, including suspension and revocation of their licenses, for certain criminal convictions.
- Social Services: Federal law provides for revocation of some social service benefits (food stamps, emergency assistance, Pell grants, housing assistance) for certain drug convictions.
- The Right to Vote - You may not vote in Mississippi for national, state or local offices if you have been convicted in a Mississippi court of the following felonies: Armed robbery, arson, bigamy, bribery, carjacking, embezzlement, extortion, felony bad check, felony shoplifting, forgery, larceny, murder, obtaining money or goods under false pretense, perjury, rape, receiving stolen property, robbery, statutory rape, theft, timber larceny and unlawful taking of a vehicle. If you have been convicted in another state of these crimes, you can vote in Mississippi if you are an otherwise eligible, registered voter. Federal convictions have no impact on your ability to vote in Mississippi.
- Sex Offender Registration: See this topic addressed here. Under federal law, a registered offender who moves to another state must notify both the FBI and the new state of residence.
- Gun Ownership: If you are ”convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year” cannot possess any firearm in any location. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). A violation of this statute carries a punishment of up to 10 years in prison. A conviction for misdemeanor domestic violence also could result in a loss of gun rights. These laws have exceptions, and it is possible to regain your rights to own a firearm in certain situations.
- Immigration Concerns: You can be deported as a result of your conviction, or suffer other adverse consequences.
This is just the tip of the iceberg on this topic. Don’t go into a criminal case without (1) knowing your rights, and (2) knowing all of the consequences of an adverse result. The normal consequences of a criminal conviction – JAIL, FINES - can be severe, but collateral consequences can make it worse.