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Reentry Resource Center - New York

Serving People from Arrest to Reintegration

Introduction to the Updated People's Guide

An arrest is never just an arrest. For students, an arrest can mean missing school or getting suspended. For parents, it can mean children placed in foster care. For breadwinners, it can mean lost hours or lost jobs. For non-citizens, it can mean detention and deportation. For families, it can mean eviction. And all of these consequences can start with an arrest-- before a conviction for any crime or offense.

Over the past decade, there has been a growing awareness that the severe consequences of arrest and conviction are harmful to communities and serve as counterproductive barriers to reentry-- the process of reintegration, rehabilitation, and restoration of rights that should begin when a person is arrested.

These consequences are frequently called "collateral consequences" to distinguish them from the "direct consequences" of a conviction-- the sentence imposed by a judge. In reality, these consequences often feel just as much like direct punishment as jail, prison, and probation. We often call them "enmeshed penalties," and they have also been described as "invisible punishment[1]" because they are not clearly set forth in the law and often not fully explained to a person considering a plea bargain. Instead, the rules that result in collateral consequences are found scattered throughout New York and federal civil laws, making them more difficult to find and understand, and avoid.

In 2010, the United State Supreme Court ruled in Padilla v. Kentucky that criminal defense attorneys must give affirmative, competent advice to clients of the risk of all severe penalties enmeshed with a criminal charge or guilty plea. While the decision explicitly referred to immigration consequences, the decision represents a crucial shift toward recognizing the many civil consequences of convictions and expanding the expectations of defense attorneys

The People's Guide to the Consequences of Criminal Proceedings provides answers to basic questions about the legal barriers to reentry triggered by arrests and convictions in New York State. The Guide is not a substitute for legal advice, but aims to provide information to help understand and navigate legal systems. We hope you find it useful!

[1] Invisible Punishment The Collateral Consequences of Mass Imprisonment (Mauer & Chesney-Lind, eds., 2002).

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