The American Bar Association has completed work on a national database that identifies the legal restrictions and prohibitions that individuals convicted of a crime face in addition to the sentence imposed by the court.
The National Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction, available at www.abacollateralconsequences.org, is an online directory that lists the federal and state laws that restrict employment, housing, education benefits and other opportunities for people with criminal records. According to the ABA, the database can help attorneys give more informed counsel to clients and provide lawmakers, advocacy groups and the public information about the scope of collateral consequences that result from being convicted or pleading guilty.
The ABA noted collateral consequences during the past 20 years have become more numerous, more severe, affect more people and are harder to avoid. Millions of Americans, the ABA asserted, are in legal limbo because at one point in their lives they committed a crime.
“While some collateral consequences of conviction serve meaningful public safety goals, many only limit a formerly incarcerated person’s ability to find work and reintegrate into society,” said ABA president William C. Hubbard. “This, in turn, imposes high social and economic costs including increased crime, increased victimization, increased family distress and increased pressure on already-strained state and municipal budgets.”
Clicking on Indiana in the database yields 82 pages of laws and regulations in the Indiana Code, Indiana Code of Professional Conduct, Indiana Rules of Evidence, Indiana Constitution, local county criminal rules and rules from the U.S. District Courts in the Southern and Northern Indiana Districts.
Although sifting through the information is cumbersome, the national inventory does have a search engine that can target a specific consequence category like professional licenses, government benefits and motor vehicle licensure along with a specific offense such as felony, misdemeanor or fraud. It also has an advanced search option which enables the review of laws in multiple jurisdictions.
The database project started with the Court Security Improvement Act of 2007 which directed the National Institute of Justice to conduct a national survey of collateral consequences. The NIJ awarded a grant to the ABA to collect and analyze the collateral consequences from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.
Plans are in the works to maintain the database’s upkeep and maintenance.
“The ABA Criminal Justice Section has sought to make its work product as widely available as possible – at no cost to the public and in one place where the data are easily found,” said James Felman, co-chair of the ABA Criminal Justice Section.