Informed Misdemeanor Sentencing

 In Symposium

There is no such thing as a low-stakes misdemeanor. The deceptive thing about misdemeanor sentencing is that the punishment the judge actually imposes in court is not the main event, in the long run. As many people find out long after they exit the courthouse, a misdemeanor conviction—indeed, even a dismissed misdemeanor charge—is a mark that follows them into their work and home lives for decades, and sometimes for the rest of their lives. A misdemeanor conviction can lead to the inability to continue working as a home health aide even after many years in the profession, or difficulty securing other employment because of the background checks that most employers now run. It can lead to loss of public housing for an individual’s entire family, and difficulty finding private housing because of the background checks that most landlords now run. Often called “collateral consequences,” these repercussions of criminal cases have also been labeled “invisible punishments” and “hidden consequences.”

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