Author Archives: CCRC Staff

Preview of 50-state report on effective relief mechanisms

The Collateral Consequences Resource Center is currently finalizing a 50-state report on the availability of relief from the adverse civil effects of a criminal arrest or conviction. Using research from the Restoration of Rights Project (RRP), the report analyzes the data in several different categories, including executive pardon, judicial record-closing and certificates, and regulation of employment and licensing.  It showcases those states that have the most comprehensive and effective relief mechanisms, and at the same time provides a snapshot of the extraordinary recent interest in restoration of rights and status in state legislatures across the country.  It also looks at what states are doing to enable less serious offenders to avoid a criminal record altogether, through statutory deferred adjudication programs managed by the courts.

We preview here the report’s conclusions, illustrated by a series of color-coded maps that create a visual image of where people with a criminal record appear to have the best chance of regaining their rights and status through a variety of different relief mechanisms.  The full report will be published shortly after Labor Day.

Table  

1. Executive pardon

2. Judicial record-closing

3. Deferred adjudication

4. Regulation of employment and licensing

5. Loss and restoration of voting rights

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PA high court holds sex offender registration unconstitutional

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in a divided opinion, has held the provisions of the state’s sex offender registration law (SORNA) unconstitutional under the state and federal constitutions.  The majority in Commonwealth v. Muniz held that 1) SORNA’s registration provisions constitute punishment notwithstanding the General Assembly’s identification of the provisions as nonpunitive; 2) retroactive application of SORNA’s registration provisions violates the federal ex post facto clause; and 3) retroactive application of SORNA’s registration provisions also violates the ex post facto clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution.  The Court distinguished the Alaska registration scheme upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84 (2003), and cited a number of other recent state high court holdings invalidating similarly harsh registration regimes.  The Court relied heavily for its analysis on an amicus brief filed jointly by the Defender Association of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (PACDL). CCRC also filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs, describing the counterproductive effects of such registration schemes. The concurring and dissenting opinions are posted here and here.

A full analysis of the holding and of the concurring and dissenting opinions will follow shortly.

Sex offender consequences in the Supreme Court – what’s ahead?

“The Supreme Court’s Mixed Signals in Packingham” is the title of a thoughtful comment by Bidish Sarma analyzing the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Packingham v. North Carolina, recently published on the American Constitution Society website.  (An early analysis of the Packingham decision by Wayne Logan appeared on this site on June 20.)  Mr. Sarma proposes that “the time has come to ask whether society’s ‘war’ on sex offenders who have already completed criminal sentences has gone too far.”

While the Packingham holding is confined to the First Amendment issues raised by North Carolina’s broad restrictions on access to “an astounding range of websites (including news websites, WebMD and Amazon),” Sarma singles out a sentence in Justice Kennedy’s opinion suggesting a broader underlying concern about the constitutionality of sex offender consequences:

Justice Kennedy’s opinion hints that the justices in fact harbor concerns. In a parenthetical note, the decision referred to “the troubling fact that the law imposes severe restrictions on persons who already have served their sentence and are no longer subject to the supervision of the criminal justice system,” and observed that this fact is “not an issue before the Court.”

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Fair Credit Reporting Act applied to criminal records

The following is a summary of how the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) applies to criminal background checks, written by Sharon Dietrich of Community Legal Services of Philadelphia.  More detailed information about FCRA’s interpretation and enforcement is available in this 2011 FTC report.  Current information about FCRA’s enforcement as applied to criminal records will appear in the upcoming third edition of Collateral Consequences of Criminal Conviction: Law Policy and Practice.  

Where a criminal record report is provided to an employer by a credit reporting agency (“CRA”), the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq, is applicable. See Beaudette, FTC Informal Staff Opinion Letter, June 9, 1998 (available here).  FCRA creates obligations both on CRAs preparing criminal background reports and on employers using them.

Among the duties of CRAs compiling criminal background reports for employers are the following:

  • CRAs may not report arrests or other adverse information (other than convictions of crimes) which are more than seven years old, provided that the report does not concern employment of an individual who has an annual salary that is $75,000 or more.   15 U.S.C. §§ 1681c(a)(5), 1681c(b)(3).
  • CRAs must use “reasonable procedures” to insure “maximum possible accuracy” of the information in the report.  15 U.S.C. §1681e(b).
  • Elements of cause of action: (1) Inaccurate information in report; (2) inaccuracy due to CRA’s failure to follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy; (3) consumer suffered injury (can include emotional injury); and (4) injury was caused by inaccurate entry.  Crane v. Trans Union, 282 F. Supp. 2d 311 (E.D. Pa. 2003)(Dalzell) (citing Philin v. Trans Union Corp., 101 F. 3d 957, 963 (3d Cir. 1996)).
  • A CRA reporting public record information for employment purposes which “is likely to have an adverse effect on the consumer’s ability to obtain employment” must either notify the person that the public record information is being reported and provide the name and address of the person who is requesting the information at the time that the information is provider to the user or the CRA must maintain strict procedures to insure that the information it reports is complete and up to date.  15 U.S.C. §1681k.

Introducing the new Restoration of Rights Project

 

The Collateral Consequences Resource Center and its partner organizations, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, and the National HIRE Network, are pleased to announce the launch of the newly expanded and fully updated Restoration of Rights Project.

The Restoration of Rights Project is an online resource that offers state-by-state analyses of the law and practice in each U.S. jurisdiction relating to restoration of rights and status following arrest or conviction.   Jurisdictional “profiles” cover areas such as loss and restoration of civil rights and firearms rights, judicial and executive mechanisms for avoiding or mitigating collateral consequences, and provisions addressing non-discrimination in employment and licensing.  Each jurisdiction’s information is separately summarized for quick reference.   

In addition to the jurisdictional profiles, a set of 50-state comparison charts summarizes the law and illustrates national patterns in restoration laws and policies.   We expect to supplement these resources in weeks to come with jurisdiction-specific information about organizations that may be able to assist individuals in securing relief, and information on other third-party resources.

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Defendant entitled to “Hail Mary” effort to avoid deportation

The Supreme Court has settled a dispute lingering in the lower courts since its decision seven years ago in Padilla v. Kentucky:  If a criminal defendant’s decision to plead guilty resulted from his lawyer’s constitutionally deficient advice about the collateral consequences of conviction, what does he have to show to undo the plea and bring the government back to the bargaining table?  The question before the Court in Jae Lee v. United States was whether a defendant facing deportation must be given a second chance to stay in the United States after bad advice from his lawyer led him to plead guilty, even though the odds of his winning at trial are low and he is likely to be deported anyway.

The government argued that no “rational” defendant in Lee’s position would have risked a longer prison term, that he therefore could not show that he was prejudiced by his lawyer’s bad advice, and that the plea should accordingly stand.  Lee countered that “deportation after some time in prison was not meaningfully different from deportation after somewhat less time,” and that he would have taken his chances with the jury if he had had accurate advice about the consequences of pleading guilty.  As the Court put it, he “would have rejected any plea leading to deportation in favor of throwing a ‘Hail Mary’ at trial.”

On June 23, the Supreme Court agreed that Lee should have another bite at the apple. In an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, the Court held 6-2 that Lee had met his burden of showing that it would not have been “irrational” for him to reject the plea offer and go to trial, even though he would have been “almost certain” to lose.

The Court’s opinion is analyzed by Amy Howe at SCOTUSblog here.  Justices Thomas and Alito dissented, and Justice Gorsuch took no part in the decision.

Scholarship round-up IV

It’s time for another scholarship round-up! A more complete collection of scholarship on issues relating to collateral consequences and restoration of rights can be found on our “Books & Articles” page.  (Abstracts follow list of articles.) Past round-ups here.


Measuring the Creative Plea Bargain

Thea Johnson, University of Maine School of Law
Indiana Law Journal, Vol. 92, 901 (2017)

Dismissals as Justice

Anna Roberts, Seattle University School of Law
Alabama Law Review (Forthcoming)

Unstitching Scarlet Letters? Prosecutorial Discretion and Expungement

Brian M. Murray, University of Pennsylvania Law School
86 Fordham Law Review (Forthcoming)

Criminal Record Questions in the Era of “Ban the Box”

Mike Vuolo, Ohio State University
Sarah Lageson, Rutgers University
Christopher Uggen, University of Minnesota
16 Criminology & Public Policy 139 (2017)

The President’s Role in Advancing Criminal Justice Reform

Barack Obama
130 Harvard Law Review 811, 838 (2017)

Obama’s Clemency Legacy: An Assessment

Margaret Colgate Love
29 Federal Sentencing Reporter (forthcoming 2017)

Designed to Fail: The President’s Deference to the Department of Justice in Advancing Criminal Justice Reform

Rachel E. Barkow, New York University School of Law
Mark William Osler, University of St. Thomas – School of Law (Minnesota)
William & Mary Law Review, Vol. 59 (2017)

Expungement, Defamation and False Light: Is What Happened before What Really Happened or Is There a Chance for a Second Act in America?

Loyola University Chicago Law Journal (Forthcoming)
Doris Del Tosto Brogan, Villanova University School of Law

Leading with Conviction: The Transformative Role of Formerly Incarcerated Leaders in Reducing Mass Incarceration

Susan P. Sturm, Columbia Law School
Haran Tae, Yale University Law School
Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-547 (2017)

Legal Aid with Conviction: How to Combat Barriers to Reentry by Using the Law

Vidhi Sanghavi Joshi, Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee
Clearinghouse Article, Sargent Shriver Center on Poverty Law (June 2017)

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“Justice Alito’s misleading claim about sex offender rearrests”

The title of this post is the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker’s” assessment of a statement in Justice Alito’s concurrence in Packingham v. North Carolina about the recidivism rates of sex offenders.  We reprint excerpts because of the importance of the issue to the Supreme Court’s collateral consequences jurisprudence:

“Repeat sex offenders pose an especially grave risk to children. ‘When convicted sex offenders reenter society, they are much more likely than any other type of offender to be rearrested for a new rape or sexual assault.’”
–Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., concurring opinion in Packingham v. North Carolina, June 19, 2017

. . . . .

The Fact Checker normally doesn’t fact-check Supreme Court justices, and we certainly do not fact-check opinions. But the topic of sex offender recidivism is worth clarifying because it is often misconstrued, so we found Alito’s claim newsworthy. And this specific claim is an assertion of fact, rather than the justices’ actual opinion.

What do the data show?

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Court rules sex offenders cannot be barred from social media

The Supreme Court ruled on June 19, without dissent, that sex offenders cannot constitutionally be barred from social-networking sites.  SCOTUSblog’s Amy Howe introduced the Court’s ‘s holding in Packingham v. North Carolina as follows:

In 2002, Lester Packingham became a convicted sex offender at the age of 21, after he pleaded guilty to taking indecent liberties with a child – having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Packingham got into hot water with the law again in 2010, when he posted on Facebook to thank God for having a traffic ticket dismissed. After a police officer saw his post, Packingham was prosecuted and convicted under a North Carolina law that makes it a felony for a convicted sex offender to use social-networking websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, that allow minors to create accounts. Today Packingham has something else to be grateful for, and he can take to social media to express that appreciation, because the Supreme Court agreed with him that the North Carolina law violates the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech.

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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.

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