The American Bar Association has taken the position that “collateral sanctions should be explained before a person pleads guilty to an offense or at sentencing, and that there should be a formal process to appeal for relief from collateral sanctions.” We at the Systemic Justice Project agree.
Moreover, we believe that defense counsel should have enough information about collateral penalties so that they can fully advise clients about all of the potential harms resulting from a criminal conviction. And criminal defendants should be empowered to negotiate plea deals with the knowledge of how collateral consequences will affect their lives after the formal sentence has been served. As the system currently stands, defendants may plead to certain charges (especially lower-level violations and misdemeanors) that carry collateral consequences of which they are unaware and that, had they been aware, they might not have agreed to.
Students involved in this project created a comprehensive “Collateral Consequences 101” handbook which outlines the collateral consequences of all major criminal charges in Pennsylvania. They also created a companion desk guide for public defenders in a format that is both accessible and easy to reference. Students also developed two CLE training courses – one for public defenders and one for judges – to help them better understand collateral consequences