Most people understand that criminal charges and proceedings are serious matters. Not only does a successful conviction impose criminal steep criminal fines and harsh penalties, including jail time or imprisonment, but there are other lasting effects that could disrupt your life for years after you’ve repaid your debt to society. Some crimes involve imposing civil disabilities on convicts. This article discusses some of the lesser-known, but equally important, consequences for criminal convicts.
What Is a Civil Disability?
A Civil disability prevents someone from exercising certain legal rights. For example, the law deems children under the age of 18 to be legally incapable of entering into a valid contractual agreement or consenting to sexual relations. That is why children under 18 need a parent to sign legal forms, such as waivers and disclaimers for school sports and trips. Additionally, women from the not so distant past used to have legal disabilities for voting and property ownership. If you are successfully convicted of a crime, you might incur several legal disabilities as a result.
Civil Rights for Prisoners
Under California law, convicted felons serving a prison term are subject to certain legal disabilities while incarcerated. The state may deprive the civil rights of convicted and incarcerated felons if doing so is “reasonably related to a legitimate penological interest.” That means that the state need not respect a prisoner’s civil rights if there was a reasonable connection between doing so and a legitimate state Corrections and Rehabilitation purpose.
However, sections 2600-2601 of the California Penal Code—also known as the prisoners’ bill of rights—guarantees certain fundamental human rights for prisoners and prohibits state correctional agents and authorities from arbitrarily infringing on the civil rights of a prisoner. Moreover, prisoners continue to be protected under the Fourteenth Amendment, guaranteeing prisoners equal protection of the law.
Civil Rights During Parole
Parole allows prisoners to serve the remaining time of their sentence outside prison. Parolees must have demonstrated good behavior to be placed outside of prison for parole. However, parolees are still under the legal custody of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The state has the authority to impose reasonable conditions for parole which result in restricting the parolee’s liberty. The state also has discretion for revoking parole.
For example, a convicted DUI or drug felon who was granted parole may be required to submit to random substance abuse testing. They may also be prohibited from purchasing or consuming alcoholic beverages.
Civil Rights During Probation
Similar to parole, prisoners on probation are conditionally released back into the community. During probation, the state may impose probation conditions that restrict a probationer’s freedom of movement. However, the state may not impose probation conditions that would deprive the probationer of the same basic civil rights that the general prison population has.
Under the Fourteenth Amendment, states may enact laws that restrict a convict’s voting rights. The California Constitution removes the voting rights of convicted felons while serving a prison term or on parole. This civil disability applies to all felons within the jurisdiction of California, regardless of whether they were tried and convicted in another jurisdiction.
Furthermore, those convicted of bribery, perjury, forgery, malfeasance in office, or other “high crimes” are barred from holding public office. Anyone who was found guilty of embezzling public funds is prohibited from holding any official position of honor, trust, or profit. This includes public service offices including judges, executive officers, representative officers, or lobbyists.
Persons convicted of a felony are ineligible for jury service in a trial or as a member of a grand jury panel. The right to serve on a jury is not a fundamental right under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
A successful conviction for certain crimes requires registration with a local law enforcement agency when moving to a different community or otherwise changes their address.
Under California Penal Code § 457.1, a convict must register with local law enforcement for the following offenses:
- Drug crimes: Certain narcotics offenses require convicts to register with local law enforcement and notify them of any change of address. This requirement applies until five years after their release from prison or jail.
- Sex crimes: A person convicted of a sex crime—whether as an adult or juvenile—will be subject to a registration requirement for the rest of their life. Sex offenders must notify law enforcement of any change of address or residence and are prohibited from changing their name unless the judge determines that an exception would serve the best interests of justice. Sex offenders are also prohibited from working at a childcare facility. Certain sex offenders must also register any “internet identifies” with police, including email addresses and user names for instant messaging or social networking.
- Arson: Both juvenile and adult arson offenders are required to register with local law enforcement if they change their address or place of residence. This includes offenses for arson, aggravated arson, attempt to commit arson, and possession or manufacture of a firebomb.
- Gang-related offenses: Any offenders who were convicted of an offense that relates the activities of a street gang, or an offense with a street gang sentence enhancement, must register with local law enforcement and keep them updated on any change of address or residence.
Authoritative Advocacy from Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich
At Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich, we have experience representing people in a variety of different legal matters, including criminal defense. We understand the stakes of being convicted of a crime and the residual consequences it can have on a person’s life. If you are facing criminal charges, you need an experienced and compassionate advocate in your corner.
To arrange a free consultation about your case with one of our knowledgeable advocates, call Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich at (951) 687-6003 or contact us online today.