The U.S. incarcerates more people per capita than any other western nation and is third in the world behind China and North Korea, countries known for their human rights abuses. It stands to reason that the U.S. also convicts more people for various crimes. It is also the nature of our criminal justice system that those persons with criminal convictions face numerous obstacles in finding suitable employment or housing, and in other areas of normal life. Anyone who has been charged with a criminal offense should retain an experienced criminal lawyer and be cognizant of the consequences of a criminal conviction of any kind.
In Florida, criminal offenses are divided into either misdemeanors or felonies. A misdemeanor is generally any crime with a maximum jail sentence of one year, or for which no state prison time is imposed. All others are felonies, the most serious of offenses. Examples of misdemeanors are petit theft, simple assault, shoplifting, some burglary crimes, DUI and most domestic violence crimes.
If convicted of a misdemeanor, the consequences or effect on your daily living is not as onerous as a felony. Your civil rights are not limited and unless you were convicted of a drug or sex crime, your right to receive public benefits are unaffected.
A DUI conviction can result in more collateral consequences than the typical misdemeanor. A first DUI will result in the loss of your driving privileges for a minimum of 6 months and up to one year, if you refused chemical testing of your blood alcohol concentration level. Subsequent convictions mean certain jail time and a loss of your driver’s license for 5 years for a second DUI in 10 years, and 10 years for a third. A fourth DUI in 10 years is a felony and can result in permanent loss of your driver’s license.
Without a driver’s license, even for 6 months, you may find it difficult to commute to work or to accept any employment where public transportation is unavailable. For commercial drivers, a first DUI results in a one-year disqualification. A second DUI is a life-time ban.
A felony conviction can certainly create barriers that you may not have imagined. Regardless if a firearm or violence was involved, you lose certain rights in the state of Florida, including:
Criminal background checks are ubiquitous these days. Anyone including a dating partner, a potential landlord or employer can conduct a criminal background check by simply going online even with minimal information about you. Although it is up to the discretion of a private employer or landlord, your chances of gaining employment, promotion or housing is seriously compromised with any felony conviction.
Custody and Adoption Consequences
Custody, or time-sharing as the Florida courts and legislature now prefer to call it, can be seriously affected if you have a misdemeanor conviction and certainly a felony. Family courts look to the moral character of both parents in assessing time-sharing and with whom the child will principally reside for school and other activities. Drug, alcohol, sex or violent crimes will present you with serious obstacles in demonstrating to the court that you can provide a safe, stable and nurturing environment with the child’s best interests as the determining standard.
Regarding adoption, the state or adoption agency will generally allow individuals to adopt a child provided the applicant can provide the basics for the child and offer a life-long commitment. However, you will be disqualified from adopting a child if you have a felony conviction for child abuse or neglect, spousal abuse, a crime against children or any physical assault or drug related offense in the past 5 years.
Should you not be a U.S. citizen, most misdemeanor convictions will not adversely affect your status or result in deportation proceedings. If it was gun crime, sex offense or drug offense, however, immigration authorities may deny you permanent residency status or a visa application or extension.
You are subject to deportation for deportable offenses, or those that are crimes of moral turpitude, which include many felony offenses. Felony crimes such as sex offenses, robbery, embezzlement, murder, kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon or firearm and many drug offenses are considered deportable crimes.
Expungement or Sealing of Records
Florida law does not allow you to expunge a criminal conviction for which you were adjudicated guilty. An expungement is a legal process where your criminal arrest and/or conviction record is inaccessible to the general public. The only records that are eligible for sealing or expungement are those for which charges were dismissed before trial or for which you pled guilty but adjudication was withheld.
Retain an Experienced Criminal Lawyer
As you can see, the consequences of a criminal conviction can present barriers to you living a normal and productive life. If you are a non-citizen, you risk deportation, delay or denial of a visa or permanent residency. You need the assistance of a Florida criminal attorney who can vigorously represent you at every stage of your criminal proceeding and ensure that all your rights and options are considered and understood.