November 23, 2022
What Are the Consequences of a Criminal Conviction in Pennsylvania?
Criminal convictions can come with severe consequences, so you’ll need a dedicated criminal defense attorney to ensure you receive the best outcome.
Some drawbacks of being convicted of a crime are readily apparent — you may lose your freedom and a substantial amount of money in fines and court fees. Other consequences of criminal liability may be less obvious.
If you've been convicted of a crime in Pennsylvania, you may have already realized some of the consequences of a criminal record.
This is where a criminal defense lawyer steps in.
What Is a Criminal Record?
A criminal record is lifelong documentation of all the crimes you have been convicted of and their criminal record consequences. Each state makes this record of convictions accessible to law enforcement and other interested parties, such as employers or landlords.
The federal government also keeps records of federal convictions, as well as a violent criminal database for law enforcement use.
Consequences Imposed in Court
The Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, Title 18, Chapter 11 delineates the consequences of having a criminal record. It doesn’t include any collateral consequences of criminal convictions. State criminal penalties include:
Among the consequences of criminal conviction in Pennsylvania is the possibility of a fine. The amount is determined by the severity of the crime:
Summary offenses: up to $300 (unless determined by a specific statute assessing a greater fine);
- Third-degree misdemeanors: up to $2,500;
- Second-degree misdemeanors: up to $5,000;
- First-degree misdemeanors: up to $10,000;
- Third-degree felonies: up to $15,000;
- First and second-degree felonies: up to $25,000;
- Charges for murder or attempted murder: up to $50,000.
A Pennsylvania judge has the discretion of imposing a higher fine if a specific statute prescribes a higher fine or if the defendant’s crime resulted in financial gain. If you are convicted of a crime in which you had a pecuniary gain, then the consequences of criminal liability could result in a fine of twice as much as the gains you made.
Jail or Prison Time
The severity of your offense determines whether you go to jail or prison and the length of your sentence. The maximum sentences for various degrees of convictions in Pennsylvania are:
- Summary Offenses: up to 90 days;
- Third-Degree Misdemeanors: up to 1 year;
- Second-Degree Misdemeanors: up to 2 years;
- First-Degree Misdemeanors: up to 5 years;
- Third-Degree Felonies: up to 7 years;
- Second-Degree Felonies: up to 10 years;
- First-Degree Felonies: up to 20 years.
Murder is classified separately from other felonies when it comes to the length of time the offender is in prison:
- Third-Degree Murder: up to 40 years;
- Second-Degree Murder: life imprisonment;
- First-Degree Murder: life imprisonment or the death penalty.
Criminal law consequences can mean both a fine and a prison or jail sentence — or just one or the other.
Fines and jail time may not be the only consequences of criminal activities. The court may also order the convicted person to pay restitution to the victim of their crimes under certain circumstances:
- It was a crime of theft or conversion of property;
- The crime led to a substantial decrease in the value of the victim’s property;
- The crime resulted in personal injury to the victim.
What Are the Long-Term Consequences of a Criminal Record?
Long-term collateral consequences of a criminal conviction, whether a felony or a misdemeanor, can have ramifications in all areas of your life, from your ability to earn a living to where you live or what you are permitted to do.
One of the most prevalent consequences of criminal activity is its effect on your employment. Many employers require applicants to pass a criminal background check as a condition of hire.
Some convictions may prevent you from seeking employment in fields like finance, education, or healthcare, depending on the nature of your conviction.
If you try to get a loan for a car, business, or mortgage, you may have more difficulty after a criminal conviction, even if your credit is good. Some lenders consider someone with a criminal conviction a high-risk borrower, so even if you get a loan, your terms could be much less favorable.
Renting and Leasing
Another serious consequence of criminal activity is your ability to secure housing. Many landlords perform criminal checks on tenants and may not rent to you if you have been convicted of certain crimes. If you were convicted of a sex offense, your housing options may be limited by the restrictions of Pennsylvania's sex offender registry.
Sexual Offender Registry
Most sexual offense convictions in Pennsylvania require registration on the sex offender registry; the nature of your conviction will determine how long you must remain registered. This limits where you can live, work, and even where you can go in your free time. In addition, the sex registry is a public record, visible to anyone.
Many people don’t think of their voting rights when considering what are the consequences of having a criminal record. But in some states, including Pennsylvania, you may lose the right to vote, serve on a jury, or hold an elected public office if you have been convicted of a crime.
There are also immigration consequences of criminal activity. Depending on the nature of the conviction, your immigration status could be in jeopardy or your citizenship application denied. Some federal crimes and serious state crimes may also be grounds for deportation, or you may be denied the right to re-enter the U.S.
Driving and Other Privileges
You may also lose your Pennsylvania driver’s license after a criminal conviction. Certain crimes, like causing a car crash resulting in death or great bodily injury to another person, can carry criminal penalties and license forfeiture. Conviction of certain alcohol or drug crimes also leads to a license suspension or revocation.
Criminal records impact what happens if you are charged with a subsequent crime. The prosecutor may bring up your criminal record during a trial for a new crime, or your criminal record could be a consideration when the judge issues your sentence.
Many federal felony convictions prohibit the individual from owning a firearm afterward. In Pennsylvania, most felony convictions result in a denial of firearm ownership. Convictions of impersonating a police officer, corruption of a minor, and drug-related crimes with more than a two-year sentence also fall under the firearm prohibition law.
Even a criminal misdemeanor on your record could impact your ability to travel outside the country. Canada, for example, may refuse entry to people with a criminal record, depending on what kind of misdemeanor or felony they were convicted of.
If you hold a job that requires a security clearance or plan to apply for one that does, a criminal conviction could be grounds for denial or revocation of the clearance.
Many entities factor several things into granting a security clearance, including honesty, financial responsibility, and overall character. Criminal convictions can put these qualities into question.
Even your college application could be denied if you have a criminal record. Each college has different policies, and whether you are admitted often depends on your crime and your behavior afterward. However, if you have a sex- or drug-related offense, you will likely be disqualified from federal financial aid for college.
A criminal conviction could jeopardize your custody arrangement or cause your primary or joint custody order to be changed. Judges determine custody in the children’s best interests and may view your parenting skills poorly if you have a criminal record.
A conviction may disqualify you from obtaining or retaining physician or nursing licensure or be grounds to invalidate your teaching certificate. The licensing board for your particular industry will have its own regulations, so you may need to study its by-laws to see if you can keep your professional license.
Loss of Your Reputation
Even a criminal arrest or charges can damage your reputation in the community or at your workplace. Some people may question your integrity afterward, even if you are cleared of the charges, or view you differently after a conviction. Damage to your reputation may be harder to contend with than other consequences of a crime.
A Criminal Record Can Change Your Life — a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help Protect You
If you’ve been surprised at the answers to “What are the consequences of a criminal record?” you aren’t alone. Many people find, to their misfortune, that there are still consequences to a criminal conviction after they have served their sentence and paid their fines.
If you’ve been charged with a crime, the consequences could be much more than time in jail. We can help. Contact Tauber Law, experienced criminal defense attorneys, today to learn about possible defenses for your charges.
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