Judges must ensure that defendants know the direct consequences of a criminal conviction, such as the maximum incarceration period and fine. But they don’t need to warn defendants about, and probably don’t care about, the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction. According to one major study, these consequences include “accessing employment, business and occupational licensing, housing, voting, education, and other rights, benefits, and opportunities.”
Frequently, the collateral consequences outweigh the direct consequences. In every case except for life in prison or capital punishment, direct consequences end. But in most cases, save for the exceptions outlined below, the collateral consequences are endless. Offense-specific collateral consequences, like prohibiting a convicted fraudster from serving as a public treasurer, make sense. But others simply weigh former defendants down. This ongoing weight makes them feel hopeless.
A Marietta criminal defense lawyer not only advocates for defendants during the initial court process. A strong criminal defense usually reduces, or eliminates, these collateral consequences. An attorney also advocates for defendants after the judge’s gavel falls. This advocacy usually falls into one of the four categories listed below.
Contrary to popular myth, probation is not a slap on the wrist followed by an admonishment to go forth and sin no more. General and offense-specific conditions of probation are quite harsh, especially in suburban jurisdictions like Cobb County. As a result, very few probationers finish the process completely unscathed. They usually have at least one brush with probation revocation.
Failure to report might be the most common probation violation. Many people have transportation or physical health issues and cannot easily get from place to place. Others have mental or emotional health issues and cannot easily remember appointments.
Probation officers don’t care about any such things. They only care about an on-time attendance record. Technically, being one minute late for one appointment could trigger a revocation motion. Forgetting a requested document, like a pay stub, could also bring the hammer down.
Possession of a prohibited substance is probably the most common offense-specific probation violation. DUI and drug possession defendants are usually subject to random tests. Assume Jim’s probation officer calls him out of the blue and orders him to take a drug test within three hours. If Jim misses the deadline or fails the test, he’s in violation of his probation.
A Marietta criminal defense lawyer can usually address such issues. Lawyers often convince supervision officers to reschedule missed appointments. Lawyers can also successfully challenge the accuracy of a drug test.
Early Discharge from Probation
In old Westerns, the posse often cut the fleeing troublemakers off at the pass. An early discharge petition cuts off probation violation matters at the pass. This issue is very acute in Georgia. Most states cap probation at the maximum sentence length (e.g. maximum five years in prison means maximum five years on probation). But Georgia doesn’t cap probation length. As a result, almost half of probationers have terms that exceed ten years.
In the Peach State, probationers who have served at least three years, no motions to revoke in two years, and paid all restitution. These are the minimum qualifications. Once a defendant gets in the door, a Marietta criminal defense lawyer must convince a judge to sign an order.
Good lawyers usually try the easy way first. In this case, the easy way is an informal meeting with the probationer’s supervision officer. If this person agrees to the early discharge petition, a judge normally signs it without holding a hearing.
At a hearing, an attorney must argue that the petition is in the best interests of the probationer and the best interests of society. Part one is easy to establish. Part two is tricky.
Most people, including most judges, love a good comeback story. Assume at the time of his conviction, Jim, who was single, hung out with shady characters on the bad side of town. At the time of the early discharge hearing, he was married with a small child and living in a better neighborhood.
These arguments walk a tightrope. The judge could easily conclude that probation motivated Jim to pull things together, and his life will be even better if he serves the remainder of his term.
Law Enforcement Targeting
We mentioned some collateral consequences of criminal convictions above. Law enforcement targeting was not on this list, but it probably should have been.
Usually, when investigators need suspects in ongoing criminal investigations, they start with people who have criminal records. Investigators reason that these people are suspects or know possible suspects.
Generally, when investigators call such people in for questioning, the individual should appear with a Marietta criminal defense attorney. Many law enforcement officials like to bully people and throw their weight around. If possible suspects appear with lawyers, these tactics are unavailable, and investigators usually move onto someone else.
Most people feel like since they had nothing to do with the crime at hand, they don’t need a lawyer right away. However, once investigators start snooping around, they usually don’t stop until they find something illegal.
Georgia lawmakers significantly expanded the state’s expungement program in 2021. Well, at least it went from nonexistent to something. Expungement, or the erasure of criminal records, isn’t available in Georgia. However, a Marietta criminal defense lawyer can seal up to two misdemeanor conviction records.
“Sealing” means criminal convictions are invisible to the public at large. So, when a potential landlord, employer, or other person asks the dreaded “Have you been convicted of a crime?” question, the person can legally answer “no.” Law enforcement and judicial authorities, as well as some state licensing agencies, have access to sealed records.
A Marietta criminal defense lawyer can also seal a single felony conviction, if the governor grants a pardon. A pardon is not a shot in the dark. Usually, governors at least consider about a tenth of the pardon applications they receive.
Post-conviction relief eases the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced Marietta criminal defense attorney, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. Convenient payment plans are available.