Behind Bars: The Consequences of a Criminal Conviction in NYC

Behind Bars: The Consequences of a Criminal Conviction in NYC

If you’re convicted of a crime in New York, you could be forgiven for thinking that a jail sentence, probation, or fines are the only consequences you’ll face. While these are the factors that will have an immediate impact on your life, there’s a long list of consequences that can follow you for far longer – often for your entire life.

In this guide, we’ll explain what those consequences are and the very real impact they can have on several areas of your life, including:

  • Employment
  • Housing
  • Retirement/pension benefits
  • Immigration status
  • Travel and leisure
  • Reputation
  • Friendships and relationships
  • Your second amendment rights

The basics: “Collateral consequences”

In New York law, the legal term used to describe the impact of a criminal conviction on your wider life is “Collateral consequences.”

Also sometimes referred to as “Invisible punishments,” these factors can extend well beyond the immediate jail time, fines, community service, or probation you might face for your conviction. As such, these are things a criminal defense attorney should discuss with you – especially if you plan to make a plea bargain with the prosecution.

Although some of the following factors will only apply if you have a felony conviction, many can still apply if you have a misdemeanor conviction too.

How does a criminal record affect employment?

In most job applications, you’re expected to disclose whether you have any criminal convictions. Despite this, the “Fair Chance Act” prevents most employers from carrying out formal criminal background checks until after your job offer. It also prevents people from stating phrases like “no felons” or “background checks required” in job adverts.

Sadly, this doesn’t completely stop selective hiring. Many employers conduct background checks themselves – and although few employers would admit it, if a human decision is involved, they often lean towards hiring people with no criminal record.

There are also certain roles in which people with a felony conviction are often prohibited from working. These include:

  • Banking
  • Insurance
  • Health care
  • Real estate
  • Law
  • Teaching
  • Psychology
  • Other licensed professions

How do criminal convictions impact the chances of finding housing?

Criminal convictions can make it very difficult to find safe and secure housing in New York.

Private landlords are often hesitant to rent to someone with a criminal history due to concerns about safety, liability, or the possible impact on other tenants. As such, landlords often carry out background checks to help them decide on suitability.

It’s not just private landlords that have these restrictions though. Public housing authorities have specific policies relating to eligibility for persons convicted of a more serious crime. This means people with criminal records that include drug-related offenses, most sex offenses, domestic violence, and other violent crimes may be deemed ineligible for public housing or face a lengthy waiting period before they can apply. Similar policies also apply in Federally subsidized housing programs too.

How do criminal records impact retirement and pension benefits?

If you’re a public official and you receive a felony criminal conviction relating to your official duties, then your pension provision can be reduced or revoked entirely.

This is a recent change to the law, coming into force in 2017, and could potentially impact you if you’re one of over 300,000 public officials employed in New York City.

How can criminal charges affect your immigration status?

If you’re someone who has come to the U.S. legally but does not yet have citizenship, you could find yourself in danger of deportation if you receive a criminal conviction. Generally, this only applies to violent crimes – but some other crimes could see you removed from the country and barred from re-entry.

For immigrants who do not have legal status here in the U.S., the consequences of even misdemeanor convictions can lead to a swift deportation.

Criminal convictions can prevent travel

Right now, travel and leisure are probably the last things on your mind – but that doesn’t mean they won’t be factors in the future. The world is more connected than ever before, so travel for leisure, job opportunities, and even family visits could be part of your future. Unfortunately, as a convicted felon, there will be places that may bar you from entry – including:

  • United Kingdom
  • Canada
  • India
  • Israel
  • Argentina
  • Cuba
  • Iran
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • China

The rules and regulations for each country are a little different – but the headline is, don’t bank on being able to travel, and expect a lot of bureaucracy to be involved if it is possible into the future.

What could a conviction do to your reputation?

Perhaps one of the most significant collateral consequences of criminal convictions is also one that’s very hard to quantify – the damage to your reputation. The stigma associated with having a criminal record can impact various areas of your life.

Even for convictions that largely escape the attention of the public, the perception of you by those that know you can be significantly changed. You may be viewed as untrustworthy, dangerous, or morally flawed. This can seriously impact professional connections in your life.

A conviction can also have a huge impact on important relationships. Friends, family, romantic partners, and even religious groups you’re part of may look to distance themselves from you to avoid their reputation being tarnished because of the connection. Sadly, this can lead to social isolation – making it difficult for people to rebuild their lives after spending time in prison.

A criminal conviction can impact your second amendment rights

We’re all well aware of our constitutional rights – but those rights can be limited if you’re convicted of a felony.

Most significantly, the right to bear arms is impacted if you’re considered a felon. This means you cannot apply for a firearm permit, making it illegal to own a firearm. What’s more, Federal law prohibits NYC felons from owning a firearm even in other states.

What can you do to prevent a criminal conviction in New York City?

As you can see, the consequences of a criminal conviction in NYC are wide and far-reaching – going well beyond prison time, parole, community service, and possible fines.

If you find yourself facing charges, the best way to avoid these consequences is to consult with an attorney that you can trust to build a robust defense on your behalf. The Law Offices of Julie Rendelman is here to help. Dealing with the criminal justice system can be incredibly overwhelming – but you can rest assured knowing we implement strategies throughout the process that are designed to protect your livelihood, career, and future.