A criminal conviction can significantly affect your life, both at the personal and community level. Securing a job, housing, student loan, or travel permit may become difficult. Damage to personal and professional relationships and mental health problems can also stem from the conviction.
Local, state, and federal governments incur the costs of prosecuting criminal offenders and holding them in incarcerating facilities. Crime victims may suffer financial losses like damaged/stolen property or lost money due to a crime. The community also experiences a reduced earning potential from incarcerated individuals.
One way to mitigate these hidden costs is to consider possible plea bargains or alternative sentencing options. Rehabilitation and educational programs, expungement, and record sealing can also help.
Criminal Convictions in Minnesota
In Minnesota, you may face petty misdemeanor, misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony charges for a criminal offense. Felony charges are the most serious classification of criminal charges you can face, since they have a high risk of imprisonment. Petty misdemeanors aren’t considered crimes and have no risk of jail time.
A criminal conviction is a formal judgment of guilt that a court gives. Criminal convictions have financial costs and lasting impacts.
Lasting Impacts of a Criminal Conviction
You will have criminal charges on your record whether you get convicted or the case gets dismissed. A criminal record will affect your current and future employment and housing prospects. You may not access certain jobs, such as government, finance, or child/elder care jobs, if you have a conviction in your record.
Discrimination against people convicted of a crime is common. As such, you may have a damaged reputation and face social stigma for a lifetime. The level of social stigma or discrimination may vary with the type of crime you allegedly committed.
Reentry into society after completing your prison sentence can be difficult. You may experience resistance from the community, lack of social support, lack of adequate job preparation, and inability to access vital services and resources when trying to reintegrate into society.
Knowing when to hire a criminal defense lawyer can mean the difference between a won and lost criminal case. Besides fighting the charges, your lawyer can advise on ways to minimize the consequences of a conviction if you lose the case.
Financial Costs of a Criminal Conviction
The costs of a criminal conviction can be hard to quantify since they impact victims and their families, society, and local communities more broadly. However, they can be classified as direct and indirect costs. Here’s a breakdown of these financial costs:
The direct costs of a criminal conviction include funding for correctional services, the judiciary, and law enforcement. Financial losses sustained by crime victims also form part of these costs.
Minnesota’s criminal justice system comprises a network of private and government agencies that manage accused and convicted offenders. It takes lots of finances to keep this system afloat every year. As such, an increase in the number of criminal convictions can strain the budget of the criminal justice system as a whole.
Crime victims also suffer direct financial costs from a crime. These costs cut across physical injuries, emotional stress, and financial losses. These costs depend on the victim and offense.
In general, the direct costs of a conviction can affect society and the economy. These costs are a concern in economic and societal development. They lead to fewer resources for essential services, a decreased quality of life, and higher taxes.
A conviction can affect the mental and physical health of an offender and his or her family. The offender may develop mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder while incarcerated. The offender’s immediate family members may also develop mental health problems, like loneliness and social isolation.
Even after getting compensated, victims of a crime may feel less trusting of others or less safe. They may also have a heightened fear of crime, impacting their quality of life. As such, they are less likely to go out in public, participate in community activities, or start businesses.
The criminal justice system can also incur indirect costs, such as the social and economic consequences of punishments and wrongful convictions.
Incarceration can reduce the earning and contribution potential of incarcerated individuals. People with criminal records may have difficulty securing employment and housing, making them more likely to commit crimes in the future. Reducing criminal convictions can help reduce these indirect costs and create a safer and more just society.
Personal Costs of a Criminal Conviction
A criminal conviction can leave you with a criminal record, limiting your access to employment prospects and housing opportunities. It can also damage your professional and personal relationships, and affect your freedom and mental health. Here are the personal costs of a conviction on your criminal record:
Damage to Personal and Professional Relationships
A criminal conviction could cost you your kids and impact relationships at both personal and professional levels. A fear of rejection is one reason people hesitate to reveal their criminal records to their romantic partners. The criminal record can also cause trust issues in the relationship.
Past convictions can influence legal proceedings involving business disputes, child custody, or divorce. In these legal proceedings, the prosecution or other party’s criminal defense team may use your criminal record to challenge the case. Your criminal record may also influence the verdict in these cases.
Minnesota law allows employers to notify candidates that they can get disqualified from certain employment positions due to a criminal record. As such, having a criminal record can affect your career. Other job implications include getting denied a professional license and getting your license revoked.
Loss of Personal Freedoms and Rights
A criminal conviction can make the government impose restrictions on your freedoms and rights. These restrictions include losing the right to possess firearms, exclusion from jury duty, and voting disenfranchisement.
Disenfranchisement is the withdrawal or suspension of voting rights when convicted of a criminal offense. The actual type of crime that can cause disenfranchisement varies with the state law. The law usually imposes disenfranchisement on people who commit felonies, as it considers them to have broken the American social contract and given up their right to participate in civil society.
You will be ineligible for jury duty if you are still under parole or serving a sentence following a felony conviction. Getting excluded from jury duty means you cannot contribute to a verdict of a legal case. Jury service allows randomly selected U.S. citizens to participate in the judicial process.
Minnesota law prohibits firearm possession if you have been convicted of committing a violent crime. A misdemeanor conviction for a drug violation within the past three years can also prevent you from enjoying your firearm ownership rights.
Other convictions that can limit your firearm possession rights include assault against a family or household member with a firearm and conviction of a crime punishable by more than one year of imprisonment.
Impact on Mental Health
Imprisonment can make you develop hyper-vigilant behavior, making you stay constantly alert for imminent threats. If this behavior continues after your prison term ends, it may cause social isolation. Some people become emotionally distant after spending time in prison.
Other mental health impacts of a criminal conviction include shame, guilt, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). PTSD manifests as sudden outbursts of rage or anger, lack of emotions, and nightmares. People with PTSD can find it hard to lead productive lives and readjust to societal norms.
Limited Access to Housing and Loan Opportunities
Housing is among the most crucial aspects of recovery and reintegration for recently incarcerated individuals. However, it can be hard to find housing with a criminal conviction. Most property owners will demand background checks and may not approve your application if you have a criminal record.
Getting a mortgage can be difficult if your criminal conviction has affected your credit score. Some lenders will look at your criminal record when reviewing your loan application. They may also require you to have guarantors for the loan, who may be hard to find if you have a criminal past.
Options for Mitigating the Hidden Costs
Criminal convictions often leave convicted criminal offenders and their loved ones with hidden costs. These hidden costs also affect taxpayers and strain state and federal resources. Here are options for mitigating these hidden costs:
Consider Plea Bargains or Alternative Sentencing Options
A plea bargain is an agreement reached between the defendant and the prosecution. It allows an offender to plead guilty to one or more offenses for more lenient sentencing. You may also enter a plea agreement to have other charges dismissed.
A criminal defense lawyer can help you review a plea deal presented to you by the prosecution team. The lawyer will explain the pros and cons of the deal. The lawyer will then advise you on the best course of action. Accepting a plea deal means admitting guilt and waiving your legal right to a trial.
Plea deals save time and money for the defendant, the public, and the court. Once you plead guilty, you can avoid the legal fees and court costs associated with trials. Prosecutors also have a lesser caseload, reducing the state’s funding for cases.
Alternative sentencing gives you a punishment that fits your offense while encouraging reform. However, your eligibility will depend on your criminal record and the type of offense committed. Common types of alternative sentencing in Minneapolis, Minnesota, include monetary fines, suspended sentences, probation, community service, diversion programs, and restitution.
Alternative sentences help reduce taxpayer money spent on criminal cases. They are relatively less costly to implement, allowing the criminal justice system to save money. The criminal justice system can also generate revenue from monetary fines.
Rehabilitation Programs and Educational Opportunities While Incarcerated
A rehabilitation program seeks to reduce recidivism among adult offenders. It achieves this goal by improving the offender’s behaviors, mental health, social functioning, and skills. The program also offers access to employment and educational opportunities.
Rehabilitation is the process of preparing offenders to re-enter society. It addresses all underlying causes of crimes to ensure inmates stay away from crime after serving their sentence. The process involves psychological approaches that benefit the offender’s mental well-being.
Rehabilitation can be successful if incarcerated criminal offenders are protected from unsanitary conditions and can access quality medical care. Rehabilitation can also happen if the offender can maintain relationships with the outside world and learn new life skills. It can be in the form of drug rehabilitation, medical care, or faith-based programs.
Education programs for inmates can range from basic literacy courses to tertiary and vocational education programs. Inmates can also participate in non-formal activities that teach them new skills. Depending on the program, they can get a certificate, a bachelor’s degree, or an associate degree.
Expungement and Record Sealing Process
The criminal justice system maintains a list of people’s arrests and convictions, also known as a criminal record. The courts, prosecutors, police, and members of the public, including employers and landlords, have access to criminal records. However, you can have your criminal record sealed or expunged.
An expungement will remove arrests or convictions from your criminal record as though they never happened. The public cannot see your criminal record following an expungement. Prosecutors, judges, professional agencies, and public employers can, however, still access your criminal record even after a successful expungement.
Expungement and sealing can cut the costs of a criminal conviction, both for offenders and society. In particular, expungement allows people with criminal records to access employment, education, and housing opportunities. Increased employment rates reduce people’s reliance on government assistance.
At the societal level, expungement improves public safety. People with expunged criminal records can reintegrate into society and become productive in their communities. Reoffending rates also reduce if people have clean records and access to jobs, housing, and quality education.