Introducing the Compilation of Federal Collateral Consequences
The CCRC is pleased to announce the launch of its Compilation of Federal Collateral Consequences (CFCC), a searchable online database of the restrictions and disqualifications imposed by federal statutes and regulations because of an individual’s criminal record. Included in the CFCC are laws authorizing or requiring criminal background checks as a condition of accessing specific federal benefits or opportunities.
This newly developed tool allows individuals to identify federal collateral consequences based on the people, activities or rights affected; to access complete and current statutory and regulatory text detailing the operation of each consequence; and, to explore the relationship between consequences and their implementing regulations, and among different consequences. This is a product that has been many months in the making, and we hope it will serve as an important resource for practitioners, researchers, and policymakers, as well as individuals with criminal records.
The CFCC data is derived from the National Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction (NICCC), a database originally compiled by the American Bar Association under a grant from the National Institute of Justice pursuant to the Court Security Act of 2007. The NICCC itself is currently hosted by the Council of State Governments on the website of the National Reentry Resource Center.
In developing the CFCC we streamlined and restructured the NICCC data, reorganizing it into keyword categories for easier user access, and combining overlapping and duplicative entries. We omitted potentially misleading interpretations and lengthy textual excerpts in favor of links to the full current version of the law or rule. At the same time, we updated the NICCC data to reflect laws enacted and rules adopted in the past two years.
The most important new feature of the CFCC is the addition of a comprehensive set of searchable “Keywords” that allow users to zero in on consequences of interest with a high degree of precision and accuracy.
The result is a tool for practitioners and researchers that we believe will be more useful, easier to operate and understand, and more current and reliable.
The CFCC represents just the beginning of what we envision as a much larger project. We are currently developing state-specific compilations using the same platform and will be rolling those out as they are completed. Our Wisconsin compilation is already available through the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s website. A similar database developed for the Vermont Attorney General is scheduled to launch this summer.
How the CFCC works
The CFCC currently consists of 885 entries, each representing a discrete collateral consequence or set of related consequences and relief mechanisms. Each entry contains a brief description of the consequence, its legal citation (along with relevant subsections), and a link to the official version of the law. Each entry is also tagged with one or more “Categories” and “Keywords.” Categories indicate the type of consequence in broad terms, such as “Employment,” “Occupational licensing,” and “Government benefits.” Keywords indicate, in narrower terms, the specific people, activities, or benefits that the consequence affects, such as “Nursing,” “Child custody & parental rights,” “Food stamps,” and “Retirement & pensions.”
By searching the compilation using a combination of Categories and Keywords, it is possible to identify relevant consequences with ease and precision. This is useful while a criminal case is on-going, as well as after it is completed. For example, an airport employee concerned about how pleading guilty to a crime might affect her job can search using the Categories “Employment” and “Occupational licensing” along with the Keyword “Aviation & airports” to immediately identify consequences of specific significance. Similarly, a person convicted years ago who now wants to start a business can find out whether he may qualify for an SBA loan by searching the Categories of “Government contracting” and “Government licensing” along with the Keyword “Banking, finance & lending.”
Each Category/Keyword search returns a brief description of all relevant consequences along with their citations and all the Categories and Keywords assigned to each consequence. Those results can then be narrowed or expanded by adding or removing Categories and/or Keywords, or by searching for specific words within the text of the consequence descriptions.
Clicking the description of any consequence brings the user to a more detailed summary of that consequence, information about supplemental and related statutes and regulations, and relevant relief provisions. Relevant subsections of the law are also identified, to facilitate searches of the text of the law or rule linked on each summary screen. The linked text will identify what crimes may trigger the consequence, whether it is mandatory or discretionary, and whether it is permanent or time-limited.
Of course, the easiest way to see how the compilation works is to try it out for yourself. Tool-tips provide a helpful description of each function, and the site is free to use with no registration required. We welcome feedback from users about the CFCC’s data and functionality, and hope that lawyers and advocates will let us know how they are using it and how it could be improved.
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