In a Police Station Arrested Drug Addict Teenage Posing for a Front View Mugshot

Do We Need So Many Collateral Consequences for Nonviolent Drug Offenders? [Infographic]

Federal laws and regulations can impose collateral consequences on individuals convicted of nonviolent drug offenses. Collateral consequences impact the rights and entitlements of individuals with criminal convictions.

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Illustration if we need so many collateral consequences for nonviolent drug offenders

What are Collateral Consequences?

Collateral consequences are civil restrictions imposed by federal laws and regulations. In a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), nonviolent drug offenders are subject to over 600 collateral consequences if convicted of a drug offense. These civil restrictions have an impact on the rights and entitlements of all individuals with criminal convictions. The GAO report revealed that close to 641 civil restrictions and rules can apply to nonviolent drug offenses that do not involve any attempted, threatened or actual use of physical force.

Collateral consequences for nonviolent drug offenses can impact many areas of a person’s life. Civil restrictions impact a person’s housing and employment opportunities, as well as constitutional rights to vote and carry firearms. A drug attorney often sees collateral consequences that restrict a person’s life to the point that they are encouraged to return to a life of crime. Because of imposed collateral consequences, many nonviolent drug offenders have difficulty resuming personal and professional activities and leading a normal lifestyle. Of the 641 federal collateral consequences for nonviolent drug offenders, 497 may impose restrictions for life. Only 131 restrictions allow individuals to earn relief by completing rehabilitation. For offenders convicted of criminal offenses at both federal and state levels, 60 to 70% of collateral consequences restrict employment opportunities as a way to protect public safety.

According to the Bureau of Justice statistics, the most frequently identified nonviolent crimes involve drug possession, drug trafficking, burglary, and larceny. Statistics show the following:

  • Three out of four inmates released from state prisons have been convicted of nonviolent crimes.
  • Drug offenses and property offenses account for approximately one-third of the crimes.
  • Drug trafficking is the single largest offense of nonviolent offenders released from prisons.
  • Within three years of release, 7 in 10 nonviolent offenders are rearrested for a new crime.
  • Among nonviolent offenders released from prisons, one in five is rearrested for committing a violent crime within three years.

In Minnesota, drug crimes cover a broad range of offenses that can violate federal and state laws. Nonviolent offenses such as drug manufacturing and distribution, drug sales and trafficking, and drug possession are often charged as misdemeanors, but felony charges may apply depending on the type and amount of drugs and the circumstances of the crime.

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

People facing criminal charges in Minnesota often ask, “Can you defend yourself in court?” You can represent yourself in court when charged with a crime. Self-representation, however, is not typically in the accused's best interests, even if courts allow it.
Parents whose children have been arrested or accused of committing a heinous crime might wonder, “Can a minor be charged with a felony?” A minor aged 14 years or older but below 18 years may face felony charges in Minnesota.
People accused of or under investigation for assault might ask, “What are the charges for assault?” Minnesota has five levels of assault charges. First-degree assault is the most serious offense, and a conviction often results in the most severe penalties, like long prison time and hefty fines.