This piece follows up on the CCRC practice resource titled “Federal sentencing and collateral consequences,” available here.
Should federal courts be required to take collateral consequences into account when they impose a sentence – or should they at least be permitted to consider them? Should courts also be authorized to provide federal defendants some relief from collateral consequences after their sentences have been served? Some courts are already doing this without specific authorization, as was pointed out in a letter sent last week to the U.S. Sentencing Commission by one of its advisory committees, urging that the Commission take up the subject of collateral consequencdes as a priority for the coming year.
The Practitioners Advisory Group (PAG) urged the Commission to recognize collateral consequences as presenting issues of concern to federal courts for which it should provide some guidance:
The collateral consequences of conviction – specifically, the legal penalties and restrictions that take effect automatically without regard to whether they are included in the court’s judgment – can frequently be the most important aspect of punishment from a defendant’s perspective. In a number of recent cases, courts have has imposed a more lenient sentence in consideration of the severe collateral consequences the defendant would experience. In other cases, courts have sought creative ways to relieve defendants from the effect of collateral consequences that persist long after the sentence has been fully served. We briefly describe below the ways in which collateral consequences affect the work of sentencing courts. We urge the Commission to take this matter under advisement in the months ahead, looking toward a hearing in the spring.