Primarily due to coronavirus restrictions, during 2020, law enforcement activity in many parts of Monroe County almost ground to a halt. Yet authorities still arrested and jailed nearly 10,000 individuals. Immediate jail release, frequently through a low-cost pretrial release bond, is usually available in these cases. Jail release is the first step toward a successful criminal defense. But it’s only the first step.
A Rochester criminal defense lawyer must thoroughly review your case and identify all possible defenses to avoid significant direct and collateral consequences for a criminal conviction in NY. An attorney can leverage these defenses at trial or during pretrial settlement negotiations. So, to have the best possible chance of avoiding negative consequences, your lawyer must be a skilled litigator as well as a good negotiator.
Direct Consequences of Criminal Conviction in NYS
Most defendants who are convicted of criminal offenses receive probation. That outcome has little or nothing to do with mercy. Usually, judges place defendants on probation because incarceration is expensive. Probation is much less costly. Additionally, probationers must pay supervision fees and other costs, which partially offset the expenses associated with such programs.
The length of the probation varies significantly in different cases. Usually, it’s a few months in a misdemeanor and a few years in a felony. During this time, defendants must comply with certain conditions, such as:
- Avoiding further trouble with the law,
- Reporting to a probation supervision officer,
- Paying restitution, fines, supervision fees, and other obligations,
- Working or attending school full time,
- Avoiding “injurious” habits, and
- Completing community service or other requirements.
Because of all these requirements, probation is not always the best sentencing option. It is not even available in a few severe felonies. Incarceration in a misdemeanor is usually a few weeks, and incarceration in a felony is usually a few years.
The direct consequences of a criminal conviction usually are not that serious, and they end rather quickly. On the other hand, indirect consequences are often quite severe and often last a lifetime.
A criminal record is perhaps the most severe indirect consequence. Many employers and other searchers only take notice of less than ten years old records. But a criminal conviction never falls off a permanent record, even if the defendant was a juvenile and turned 18 or 21.
Criminal records often make it challenging to find a nice place to live or get a good job. Criminal records also often affect student financial aid packages, involving significant social stigmas. These things are particularly true with some kinds of criminal conviction records.
Certain offenses also have specific collateral consequences. For example, a DUI conviction usually includes an SR-22 requirement. Defendants must maintain this high-risk auto insurance, which generally costs about three times as much as standard auto insurance, for at least three years.
Minimizing Consequences of a Criminal Conviction in NY
Before, shortly after, and long after the judge’s gavel falls, a Rochester criminal defense lawyer can minimize, or even eliminate, these consequences.
Deferred disposition, a special form of probation, is usually available in most criminal cases. The judge sentences the defendant to probation but does not find the defendant guilty. If the defendant completes probation, the judge dismisses the case. That means no conviction record.
We mentioned probation length above. In many cases, the term could be much shorter. New York law gives judges broad discretion to modify the terms of probation, including the length of supervision. Some written and unwritten qualifications apply. Under the law, the requested termination must be in the best interests of society and the best interests of the defendant. Informally, most judges do not terminate probation unless the defendant has served at least half the term and has paid all fines and costs.
Finally, in 2017, New York lawmakers approved a record sealing law. After a ten-year waiting period expires, defendants may ask judges to seal their criminal records. Sealed records still exist, but they are invisible to most searchers, except for certain government and law enforcement officials.
The severe consequences associated with a criminal conviction in NY do not apply to everyone for all time. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester defense lawyer, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. We routinely handle matters in Monroe County and nearby jurisdictions.