When you face criminal charges, your immediate concerns are usually on what punishment the court will impose on you. You may worry about going to jail or prison and paying fines. What you may fail to think about is the collateral consequences of a felony conviction.
Collateral consequences are those other things that will happen to you as a result of a criminal conviction. Sometimes these may be worse than the punishment the court gives you because they are often lifelong. The New York State Unified Court System refers to collateral consequences as invisible punishments since they are not something that the judge will impose. You will face them as a result of any conviction even if you do not go to trial and instead take a plea agreement.
Limitations on rights
Some collateral consequences are set by law. For example, you may be unable to vote or serve on a jury. You may lose your right to own or possess a firearm. A conviction also prevents you from holding public office. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you may lose your right to remain in the country.
Other consequences may be a result of the views of society or the rules of an organization. A good example is that if you have a felony conviction, you will not likely be able to adopt a child. You may lose access to federal financial aid and be unable to live in federal housing units.
You may have trouble getting a job because employers do background checks. You may also have issues renting a place to live if landlords conduct a background check.