Collateral consequences of criminal convictions, also called “collateral sanctions,” are legal penalties that take away rights, access to programs or services, or that impose another type of disadvantage that punish but are not part of a person’s sentence. Among other examples, these sanctions may include the revocation of a driver’s license, access to human services or public assistance programs, or even the right to vote.
When properly administered, collateral sanctions can play an important role in achieving legitimate objectives. But many times people are given incentives to plead guilty without also being notified of the collateral consequences of doing so. Many such added sanctions bear no relation to an underlying offense, yet they undermine both an individual’s reintegration into society and public confidence in the justice system. In the case of voting, there is no rational basis for taking away the right or for refusing to reinstate it upon a person’s release.