Collateral consequences for criminal charges have taken on more long-lasting and devastating forms in the digital age. One such collateral consequence is that mug shots once available only to law enforcement are now posted on the Internet for the whole world to see.
Once upon a time, if you committed a crime in Philadelphia, you could just move to Pittsburgh, and no one would know about your criminal past. There was no electricity, let alone a computer data base. There was really no way for one county to communicate with another county about a suspect's prior record, and even if there were an efficient means of communication, how could the authorities in the arresting county enquire about a criminal record in every other county in the United States?
One of the most common questions I get as a criminal defense attorney is how long a misdemeanor or felony conviction will stay on a person's record. This is of particular concern to my client base, because I practice criminal law in State College, Pennsylvania, and most of my clients are Penn State students, who want a clean record when they start looking for a job upon graduation. The simple answer is that like diamonds, misdemeanor and felony convictions last forever. Having a criminal record is the biggest collateral consequence to a criminal conviction, and it can haunt you for the rest of your life.
As a criminal defense attorney representing students from Penn State and other schools, I must always consider collateral consequences for convictions when determining the best course of action in a given case. It is never good to be charged with a crime as a college student, but when it comes to collateral consequences for conviction, not all majors are created equally. In some professions, a criminal conviction will merely hurt your chances of getting a job, while a conviction will serve as an absolute bar to employment in certain other professions.