Enrique Peña Nieto, current President of Mexico once said, “Behind every crime is a story of sadness”. In my line of work, I witness and learn the tragedy of this simple yet eloquent truth every single day. The saddest aspect is that most people are unaware and uneducated to a great degree when it comes to the law. Understanding what could get you in trouble with the law, to what extent, and what the consequences of those charges are make every citizen responsible and aware of the implications of their ill-informed actions and choices. This education will help people refrain from setting forth on a course of action simply because they now know what it could cost them. This blog post is thus dedicated to explaining to you the different types of charges, the penalties they carry, the steps in a criminal conviction and the more significant consequences of criminal convictions. After all, the purpose of punitive measures is not to exact revenge, but to reform criminals, thereby lessening crime.
Violation, Misdemeanor or Felony
In this section, I will go over some basic differences between violations, misdemeanors and felonies that everybody should know. A violation, such as trespassing or possession of marijuana, carries up to 15 days in jail. Misdemeanors, such as prostitution and shoplifting – which are broken down into Class A misdemeanors, Class B misdemeanors and unclassified misdemeanors – have maximum sentences of one year. Felonies are the most serious, and they bring sentences of over one year. They include the more serious charges, such as robbery, rape, and murder. Felonies fall into classifications from A through E, each of which carries different sentences and fines. Each carries a different set of possible probations, fines and imprisonment.
- Violations carry up to 15 days in jail.
- Misdemeanors carry up to 1 year in jail.
- Felonies carry over 1 year in jail.
Steps in a Criminal Conviction
There are four basic steps.
- The first is the arraignment. This is when you, the defendant, are brought before the judge. In the event you do not have an attorney, one will be assigned to you at this point. Following this, the charges against you will be read, and you will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you enter a plea of guilty – which I do not recommend – you will be scheduled for sentencing.
- The second step is submission of pretrial motions and discovery requests. During this step, your attorney will demand discovery of the prosecution’s evidence in order to defend you.
- The third step is the trial, which could be trial before a jury or non-jury.
- The final step is sentencing.
Plea bargaining may take place during the course of these four steps, and most cases are disposed of by plea bargaining if it is permitted by the prosecutor. I also cannot emphasize this point strongly enough: please make sure you have an attorney with you at your arraignment.
- There are 4 basic steps: arraignment, pretrial, trial and sentencing.
- Make sure you have an attorney with you at the arraignment.
Consequences on Employment
The consequences of a criminal conviction on your employment can range from mild to devastating. As a criminal defense attorney, I am often asked to predict the consequences of a criminal conviction on a client’s future employment. Honestly, it is practically impossible to predict definitively what impact a criminal conviction will have on a person’s employment. However, I will go out on a limb here and say it is certainly not something you should be putting on your resume.
In the state of New York, there are probably hundreds of occupations that require professionals in the field to hold some sort of license or registration. A criminal conviction could most certainly affect such professionals adversely. If you can manage to obtain a certificate of relief from disabilities or a certificate of good conduct, it may just help you to protect your employment status. However, if you are charged with DWI (driving while intoxicated), you will not be able to keep your CDL (commercial driver’s license).
- It is impossible to predict what impact a criminal conviction will have on your employment. It depends on a variety of variable factors.
- If you require a special license or registration for your line of work, that license will likely be revoked in the case of a criminal conviction.
Consequences on Immigration
The consequences of a criminal arrest or conviction of an immigrant are severe. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you could be subject to immediate detention or deportation. If you are a green card holder, you could be denied the right to renew your green card. You could be deported, and you could also be denied the right to citizenship.
- Penalties for non-citizens and green-card holders range from revocation of immigration status to immediate deportation.
- Because this sort of thing is determined on a case-specific basis, a good lawyer can make a world of difference.
Sealing a Criminal Record
And this is the million-dollar question: will my criminal record be sealed? It might benefit you to learn that certain criminal records are automatically sealed.
- If you get a good result and the charges against you are dismissed
- Child defendants’ records
- Records of youthful defenders
- Traffic violations; these are only partially sealed
Apart from these exceptions, felonies and misdemeanors will not be sealed. However, you may request a certificate of relief from disabilities or a certificate of good conduct. This is something you ought to discuss with your attorney.
- Only certain convictions can be sealed.
- Misdemeanors and felonies cannot be sealed
If you have been arrested it is important to understand the implications of a criminal charge. Let one of our criminal lawyers in Buffalo, like Michael Ranzenhofer to defend your rights, Our attorneys have decades of trial experience that they can use to help you.