“Street Vendors, Taxicabs, and Exclusion Zones: The Impact of Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions at the Local Level”

Amy Meek just sent us her colorfully titled and important new article recently published in the Ohio State Law Journal, about the collateral consequences imposed by municipal and county ordinances.  As far as I know, this is the first serious effort to address consideration of conviction in connection with opportunities and benefits controlled at the local level.  As the abstract below suggests, many types of entrepreneurial opportunities likely to be attractive to people with a criminal record are subject to governmental regulation below the state level. Because these local ordinances and regulations are rarely included in collections of state collateral consequences, they are invisible to defendants and unavailable to their counsel and the court at the time of plea or sentencing.  Only in a few large municipalities, notably New York City, are criminal justice practitioners even aware of this locally created and administered system of restrictions and exclusions.  For example, with the exception of the District of Columbia, municipal and county rules and regulations are not included in the NIJ-funded National Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction (NICCC). The potential for interaction between state and local authorities is a particularly intriguing subject that Professor Meek explores in her recommendations for legislative reform.

Here is the abstract:

Some of the most severe collateral consequences of criminal convictions are imposed through city and county ordinances and policies. This Article offers the first in-depth examination of these municipal policies, including permits and licensing ordinances, registration and exclusion zones, third-party background-check requirements, and local hiring policies. Some municipal ordinances, such as residential restrictions on sex offenders, impose far harsher sanctions than their state counterparts, effectively banishing certain individuals from the community. In addition, municipal licensing ordinances limit access to occupations — such as street vending, operating a food cart, or driving a taxicab — that offer valuable entrepreneurial opportunities to individuals with criminal convictions. Often invisible to defendants at the time of sentencing, these local policies have been used as a way to exile “undesirables” by effectively barring them from living, working, or participating in public life in their communities. This Article offers suggestions for legislative reform to address the patchwork of collateral consequences that can lead to exile at the local level. States may pass laws preempting municipal restrictions, or municipalities can lead the way by adopting collateral consequences ordinances (such as the one unanimously passed in New Haven, Connecticut) that mitigate the impact of these restrictions by setting uniform standards and informing attorneys and the public.

We expect to post a more extensive discussion and analysis of Professor Meek’s article as soon as we can.

In addition, the Center board has been discussing the possibility of developing a template that could be used by local jurisdictions to create their own on-line catalogue of rules and policies governing consideration of conviction in employment, licensing, housing, and other benefits and opportunities controlled at the local level.  Optimally, this template would be compatible with and permit interaction with the one used to compile the NICCC inventory, so that defense lawyers and others could go to one place to find all of the consequences potentially relevant to their situation.  We expect to post a link to the NICCC as soon as certain technical problems with that resource have been ironed out.