Unequal Protection: Comparing Former Felons' Challenges to Disenfranchisement and Employment Discrimination. by Stanford Law School

Book Review : Unequal Protection: Comparing Former Felons' Challenges to Disenfranchisement and Employment Discrimination.

By Stanford Law School

  • Publication Date: 2004-05-01
  • Genre: Law

Book Review

INTRODUCTION Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure requires that before accepting a guilty plea, courts must inform the defendant of "any maximum penalty ... any mandatory minimum penalty ... [and] any applicable forfeiture." (1) But even if Rule 11 is followed to the letter, and even if the sentence resulting from a guilty plea does not include prison, a felony conviction will change the rights of the felon to an extent that neither he, his lawyer, nor even the judge is likely to be aware of at the time of conviction. (2) Collateral consequences of criminal sentences, or "civil disabilities" as they are often termed, are scattered far and wide throughout federal, state, and municipal codes. (3) Depending on the jurisdiction and the crime, felons who have served their sentences and are no longer under any sort of state supervision may nevertheless be unable to vote, obtain certain types of employment, receive food stamps, qualify for student loans, maintain parental custody, or even pick up their children from school. (4) Noncitizens will be deported. (5) In many cases, blanket provisions (6) mean that nonviolent, first-time offenders are subject to the same restrictions as hardened criminals. Furthermore, although the term "felony" commonly refers to serious crimes punishable by imprisonment for at least a year, or by death, it may include seemingly minor crimes. In Maryland, injuring a racehorse, issuing a verbal threat, and possessing fireworks without a license are felonies. (7) Despite efforts to justify exclusionary laws in terms of public safety, (8) a number of commentators have pointed out that such policies are in fact more likely to lead to increased recidivism. (9)

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