We continue to hear more and more criticism regarding disenfranchisement of convicted felons. Critics suggest that the loss of voting rights following a felony conviction is somehow unfair and disproportionately affects minorities.
Yet it should come as no surprise to anyone that engaging in criminal conduct carries with it penalties, some direct--such as fines, forfeitures or imprisonment, and some indirect. These "collateral consequences" may be imposed by statute, regulation, or by the private sector. To avoid these consequences, one merely has to avoid committing crimes.
The loss of the privilege to vote is the most well known collateral consequence. But there are many others which may arise from contact with the criminal justice system. For example, following conviction of any felony offense, or a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, or upon entry of a domestic violence order, individuals forfeit the right to possess firearms and ammunition. And in my experience, the loss of firearm rights is the collateral consequence which concerns people the most. I've never had a defendant complain about losing his voting rights, but gun rights are another matter entirely.