Consequences for a felony conviction in Minnesota
The overwhelming majority of criminal cases in the United States are resolved with plea agreements. A plea agreement is one in which a person admits to guilt, thereby convicting themselves of a crime, in exchange for a lesser offense or lighter sentence. Many first time offenders are able to avoid a prison or jail sentence in exchange for a plea of guilty, participation in a treatment program, and long-term supervised probation.
Too often, people jump at the occasion to plead guilty to avoid jail time. However, the consequences of any felony conviction are severe, even if the person does not receive a jail or prison sentence—and carry consequences that can haunt a person for the rest of their life. Often times, a felony conviction is amended or reduced to a misdemeanor after a person completes probation; this is called a "stay of imposition." And while a stay of imposition prevents a person from becoming a convicted felon, the misdemeanor conviction is still viewed as a felony for purposes of charging a person in a later case. A common example of this is when a person is charged with 5th Felony Drug Possession, and receives a probationary sentence if the person completes probation, the felony is reduced to a misdemeanor conviction. However, if the person is charged with a subsequent offense, their sentence can be aggravated for having committed a felony.
As tempting as it may be to plead guilty and get your case over with, you should familiarize yourself with the potential consequences of a felony conviction to know exactly what you are bargaining for. Below are some of the most common collateral consequences of a felony conviction.
Collateral consequences of a felony conviction
Loss of Right to Possess a Firearm
If you are convicted of a felony offense in Minnesota, you lose the right to possess a firearm for life. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor or gross-misdemeanor drug offense, you lose the right for three years following the date of conviction. Those convicted of a felony offense may petition a court for restoration of their right to possess a firearm, but must demonstrate “good cause” in order to do so.
Loss of Right to Vote
Once convicted of a felony offense, you lose the right to vote or serve on a jury. These rights are restored after you complete the probationary term associated with your sentence.
Driver's License Revocation
A felony drug offense involving an automobile may result in your driver's license being suspended or revoked. If a person is caught driving with a suspended/revoked license, this can lead to additional criminal charges and exorbitant fees.
For non-United States citizens (i.e. permanent residents, green card holders, undocumented aliens) felony convictions carry severe immigration consequences. A single conviction for a felony offense may result in automatic deportation. If you are a non-citizen who has been charged with a crime, your defense attorney must advise you of the immigration consequences of pleading guilty to a crime (this is called you Padilla rights). If a defense attorney fails to inform a noncitizen that they could be deported for pleading guilty, the guilty plea is invalid and may be overturned.
Loss of Professional License
If your job requires a professional license (e.g. nurse, personal care aid, teacher, commercial driver, tax accountant, real estate broker, etc.) your professional license will likely be suspended once criminal proceedings commence, and will almost always be revoked following a felony conviction. Debarment, which is a lifetime ban on relicensure, often follows a felony conviction.
Eligibility for Employment
Most professions in the United States require some form of criminal background check. No matter your qualifications, a felony conviction will often disqualify you from being considered for a job. This is why it is important to invest in an experienced defense attorney who will put up the strongest possible defense to a felony charge. Avoiding a felony conviction is the best possible outcome, because a felony conviction will haunt you after you pay your debt to society; it will often prevent you from finding meaningful work and becoming a productive member of society.
Almost all landlords perform a background check on potential tenants. A felony conviction will often disqualify otherwise eligible potential residents from leasing an apartment or even staying at an AirBnb. A felony conviction may also disqualify you for state-based financial assistance and affordable housing.
Bottom line: if you have been charged with a felony, it is important to consult with an experienced defense attorney to determine what options you might have. The severe consequences of a felony conviction is precisely why our firm discourages plea agreements; though it requires more work for us to fight every criminal case that comes our way, it pays dividends for our clients. Attorney Sarah Gad has the highest criminal case dismissal rate among Minnesota criminal defense attorneys and was named a Top Ten Under 40 Defense Lawyer by the National Academy of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Contact our office today for a free consultation about your criminal case.