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Lifelong Debt To Society: 7 Collateral Effects of Felony Convictions in Michigan

A person convicted of a felony in Michigan can predict certain consequences such as probation, jail or prison. However, there are several unexpected consequences most convicts do not foresee that can lead to a lifelong deprivation of certain rights and privileges. Here are seven ways that felonies follow you around long after your release from incarceration or discharge from probation:

1. Jury Duty - In Michigan, a person convicted of a felony is not qualified to serve on a jury in any capacity in the State of Michigan. Likewise, convicted felons are generally not allowed to serve on juries in federal court.

2. Firearms - A convicted felon is generally prohibited from possessing, using, selling, purchasing or transporting any firearms or ammunition for a specified period of time after a felony conviction. In fact, it is a felony offense to be a convicted felon in unlawful possession of a firearm and the penalty can include up to 4 years in state prison. A person may, however, petition the circuit court for restoration of these rights if certain conditions are met.

3. Professional Licenses - Several types of professionals such as doctors, lawyers and nurses are required to self-report their criminal convictions to their respective licensing board.  Upon report or discovery of conviction, professionals often find themselves having to defend their future career prospects in administrative proceedings before licensure discipline panels. Possible sanctions include probation with conditions, suspension or total revocation of the applicable professional license.

4. Immigration Status - Non-citizens who hold visas or green cards face the prospect of deportation if convicted of certain aggravated felonies or crimes of moral turpitude. To be clear, the list of possible offenses listed by the federal government that can trigger deportation include crimes that can be considered misdemeanors under Michigan law (e.g. assault and battery, theft, failure to appear in court, child abuse).

5. Habitual Offender Status - In Michigan, if a person is previously convicted of a felony and commits a new felony, that person can be subject to enhanced penalties at sentencing. A second habitual offender is subject to a 50% enhancement of the maximum sentence (e.g. 4-year max felony offenses become 6-year felony offenses) and a third habitual offender is subject to a 100% enhancement of the maximum sentence (e.g. 5-year max felony offense become 10-year offenses). As a fourth habitual offender, new felony offenses that carry maximum penalties under 5 years are now 15-year maximum felonies, but new felony offense that carry maximum penalties 5 years or greater can now result in a maximum of LIFE IN PRISON.

6. Employment Prospects - Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts prevents discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin and other protected classes, but people convicted of crimes generally do not fall under this umbrella. While employers might not get away with blanket policies that prohibit hiring anyone with any kind of criminal record whatsoever, employers are free to consider and take adverse action against someone with a criminal conviction if they consider the severity of the crime, the passage of time since the offense and the responsibilities of the job. Certain crimes may prohibit employment prospects altogether in certain fields such as finance or child care. In Michigan, employers are permitted to ask about previous misdemeanor and felony convictions on job applications.

7. Housing Prospects - Convicted felons are not a protected class under the Fair Housing Act. Much like employment, landlords cannot have blanket policies prohibiting prospective tenants with criminal records, but may consider the applicant on a case-by-case basis. Nevertheless, finding suitable housing will become much more difficult if you have a criminal record.

Contrary to popular belief, convicted felons ARE NOT prohibited from voting in the State of Michigan. However, persons currently incarcerated while serving a felony sentence in jail or prison are prohibited from voting (but may vote while in the community on probation or parole).

Many courts do not advise you of these collateral consequences prior to a guilty plea or a trial. You have one opportunity to properly defend a felony allegation in the court system and it is important to have a criminal defense lawyer that can advise you accordingly of the whole picture prior to taking a course of action. Avoid being taken by surprise by a lifetime of consequences because you took your felony defense lightly.

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