Interstate restoration of rights

State_border_sign_on_NY_17Can people restored to full legal status in one state expect their status to be recognized if they move to another state, just as marriage is generally given interstate recognition?  Can a person convicted in one state qualify for restoration of rights in another? What about a federal offender seeking relief under state law, or a state offender seeking relief from federal collateral consequences?  Is there a role for Congress to play in ensuring fair treatment of people with a criminal record as they move around the country?  These questions are increasingly important both as a practical and theoretical matter, as collateral consequences multiply and begin to limit Americans’ right to travel.

So it is timely that Wayne Logan, a Florida State University law professor widely known for his work on sex offender registration and other collateral consequences, has published a fascinating new treatment of the issue titled ‘When Mercy Seasons Justice’: Interstate Recognition of Ex-Offender Rights.  The article, which appears in the UC Davis Law Review, examines the impact of federalism on the ability to obtain true relief from the collateral consequences of conviction in a mobile society.  It is an issue that is widely overlooked, and the article reminds us that a comprehensive discussion about the impact of collateral consequences must take into account their inter-jurisdictional effects. The true impact of collateral consequences and relief mechanisms must be measured by the interplay of laws between jurisdictions as well as by the interplay of laws within them.

The article’s abstract appears below:

To the great relief of many, states are now rethinking their draconian criminal justice policies of the past several decades. In addition to shrinking prison and jail populations, reforms are now underway to expand opportunities for relief from the collateral consequences of conviction, such as the loss of the right to vote, serve as a juror, or work in certain occupations, which can impede the ability of ex-offenders to successfully reintegrate into society. In coming years, as states seek to reduce their high recidivism rates, such relief efforts will likely continue to grow in number; as they do, we should expect to see parallel growth in an important horizontal federalism challenge.

The challenge comes when ex-offenders, having secured collateral consequences relief in one state, relocate to another and seek to have their restored status recognized there. When this occurs a legal conflict materializes not unlike that of late witnessed with same-sex marriage. Unlike same-sex marriage recognition, however, which was the subject of major public debate and legal attention, restoration recognition — despite its potential impact on many millions more lives — has been largely ignored. This Article aims to remedy the deficit, providing the first comprehensive examination of how restoration recognition thus far has been addressed, and outlining a legislative way forward for states, or Congress, to balance the important comity, federalism, and state autonomy interests implicated.