Collateral consequences are those that take effect after people have completed the judge’s sentencing requirements. Rather than exiting prison ready to rebuild their lives, they step out into a world of restrictions and obstacles.
According to the National Institute for Justice, many of these restrictions are unfair, and they often prevent people with convictions from successfully re-entering society.
Judges and prosecutors do not have to tell defendants what the collateral consequences are. So, a person may believe taking a plea deal will be beneficial, not realizing that the particular conviction has damaging consequences.
However, there are so many collateral consequences at state, federal and local levels, that a judge and prosecutor may not know how it will affect the defendant. The good news is that people now have the option to check the National Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction database to identify what roadblocks they may face post-release based on the type of conviction.
Changes in Texas law
The Restoration of Rights & Record Relief provides updates on the changes to the state’s laws regarding collateral consequences. Of particular note are the changes that affect occupational licensing.
As of 2019, a licensing board cannot disqualify someone based on a conviction within five years of application if the offense does not have a substantial connection to the occupation. However, this does not affect jobs in public health, safety, education or finance, and some convictions are still exempt, as well.
Another recent law modifies certain licensure standards that referred to “moral integrity” or other vague, subjective terms. These licenses are for occupations such as podiatrist, electrician, auctioneer and animal breeder.
There is a more comprehensive list of the state’s collateral consequences available through the Texas State Law Library’s online collection.