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29 Nov 23

Collateral Consequences of a Conspiracy Conviction

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Last Updated on: 24th January 2024, 02:36 am

 

Collateral Consequences of a Conspiracy Conviction

Getting charged with conspiracy can lead to a whole mess of legal problems that go way beyond just the criminal case itself. Even if you end up beating the rap, a conspiracy charge can haunt you for years to come. Let’s break down some of the biggest issues so you know what you might be in for.

First off, conspiracy sounds like some top-secret spy movie stuff, but really its a pretty broad crime that prosecutors love to use. Basically if they think you made some sort of agreement to do something illegal, whether or not you actually did it, that can be conspiracy1. So right off the bat, you could be facing a felony conviction even if you didn’t actually commit the crime you allegedly conspired about. Not cool.

Making things worse, conspiracy charges often get tacked onto other charges as well. So you could be looking at conspiracy to commit robbery, conspiracy to sell drugs, conspiracy to commit fraud…you name it. Point is, this gives the prosecution two chances to get a conviction rather than just one. Tricky bastards.

Now let’s say you do get convicted of conspiracy, either by itself or along with other charges. Well get ready for a lifetime of headaches trying to move on with your life. For starters, just having that felony on your record can make it real tough to get a job, rent an apartment, get a professional license, or do a ton of other normal life stuff2. Forget about anything that requires a background check or bonding.

And it’s not just jobs and housing. Under federal law, a felony conviction also means losing your right to vote, serve on a jury, or own a gun. Bummer if you’re into politics or the Second Amendment. Some states will even suspend your driver’s license if you get convicted of certain felonies, including drug conspiracies3. So you might not be able to drive to that job you can’t get or to that apartment you can’t rent. Harsh.

Speaking of voting, a conspiracy conviction can also cancel out your eligibility for federal student loans and grants4. So if you were hoping to go back to school after doing your time, you’ll have to find some other way to pay for it. No more Pell Grants for you, convicted felon.

Your finances will take another hit thanks to all the fines and fees that come along with a conviction. We’re talking court costs, probation fees, restitution if there’s a victim, and whatever else the judge feels like tacking on. Don’t forget the cost of a lawyer unless you get a public defender. Better start saving up!

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If you’re an immigrant, a conspiracy conviction can also get you deported, even if its a low-level misdemeanor5. So much for coming to America to make a better life. One dumb mistake and its hasta la vista, baby.

Making matters worse, you may have to register as a drug offender even if the conspiracy wasn’t specifically about drugs6. Some states require anyone with a felony drug conviction to register with police like sex offenders do. Because nothing helps reintegrate into society like being treated like a perv everywhere you go.

And don’t assume you’ll get any sympathy from a judge for future cases just because you already did time for conspiracy. Judges and prosecutors take a pretty dim view of repeat offenders. Expect to have the book thrown at you if you ever end up back in court down the line. Because apparently the whole point of prison is to punish, not rehabilitate.

About the only silver lining is that some states have laws letting you get a conspiracy conviction expunged or sealed after a certain number of years7. Other states aren’t so forgiving though, so that conspiracy could stay on your record for life. Yet another fun perk of living in America’s broken criminal justice system.

So yeah, a conspiracy charge is bad news all around. Your best bet is to fight it aggressively in court and try to get it tossed out or reduced. Pleading guilty to a felony conspiracy is pretty much asking for a lifetime of problems with jobs, housing, finances, and just being able to live a normal life. Think hard before copping a plea, no matter how good a deal the DA offers you. This stuff sticks with you.

In the end, millions of Americans are dealing with collateral consequences like these of all sorts of convictions8. Maybe someday we’ll elect people willing reform the system to be more just and humane. But I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath, at least not in our lifetimes. For now, just try to avoid that conspiracy charge in the first place. Your future self will thank you.


1. https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/conspiracy

2. https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/collateral-consequences-era-mass-convictions

3. https://www.drivinglaws.org/resources/felony-friendly-states-for-drivers-license.htm

4. https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/eligibility/requirements/criminal-convictions

5. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/what-immigration-consequences-criminal-conviction.html

6. https://ccresourcecenter.org/state-restoration-profiles/chart-1-loss-and-restoration-of-civil-rights-and-firearms-privileges/

7. https://ccresourcecenter.org/state-restoration-profiles/50-state-comparisoncomparison-of-criminal-records-in-employment-licensing/

8. https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/americans-with-criminal-records/