If you face arrest or prosecution for a federal offense, you likely have a lot weighing on your mind. The prospect of spending time in federal prison can be difficult to deal with; the same is true for heavy-handed fines. While these penalties are tough, you could continue to face the repercussions of a federal conviction long after your initial sentence is complete.
There are thousands of federal statutes that could limit your rights in addition to the penalties you face upon conviction. These repercussions are referred to as collateral consequences. While they do not derive directly from the criminal statute used to prosecute you, the impact can be devastating. In many cases, these statutes can limit your employment opportunities for the rest of your life.
These collateral consequences are known as federally imposed occupational restrictions. Any line of work within or adjacent to the federal government could be impacted. The good news is that a vigorous defense at your trial could help protect your livelihood. To learn about the prospect of avoiding a conviction entirely, reach out to Board Certified criminal defense attorney Doug Murphy right away. During this conversation, you could learn more about the potential restrictions we discuss below and how a skilled lawyer can help you avoid a conviction and these penalties.
Ability to Hold Federal Office
The Constitution of the United States makes clear that a criminal record will not prevent you from serving on Congress or even as President. In fact, there is no broad regulation preventing a person convicted of a federal crime from employment with the federal government. The primary exception is that conviction for treason bars a person from ever holding any office in the federal government.
That does not mean employment with the government is guaranteed or even likely. For starters, agencies and departments routinely take a person's criminal history into account during the hiring process. This alone could make obtaining employment with the federal government after a conviction difficult.
There are other circumstances that can lead to the removal from federal office, however. In these cases, returning to that position within the federal government can be barred for a certain period of time. Examples when this can occur include:
- When an employee is removed from office after a conviction for organizing, causing, or participating in a riot;
- When an employee is removed from office for disclosure of confidential information or trade secrets;
- When an employee is removed from office for using federal money to lobby Congress; or
- When an employee is removed from office for concealing, removing, or falsifying public records.
Discharge From Active Military Reserve
If you are serving as an active military reserve, you are generally protected from release from active duty against your will. There are some circumstances where you could be released from your active duty agreement, however. One of those circumstances involves a criminal conviction.
According to 10 U.S.C. § 12312, you could be terminated from the active military reserve if you are convicted and sentenced to a federal or state prison. This sentence must become final before you can be released. While some members are entitled to a certain amount of pay at the time of their release, this is not the case if your release stems from a conviction for a federal crime.
Ineligible to Enlist in the Armed Forces
Active military reserves are not the only ones who could see their service career options limited. In some cases, a conviction could result in your ineligibility for the armed forces entirely.
According to 10 U.S.C. § 504, any person convicted of a felony is barred from enlisting in any of the armed forces. This felony could be in state or federal court. There are exceptions to this rule on a case by case basis. The Secretary of a branch of the military has the power to authorize exceptions in meritorious cases. They have discretion on when an exception is meritorious.
Ineligible for Employment with a Defense Contractor
The impact of a federal conviction can extend outside of the federal government and reach private entities that do business with the government. In specific circumstances, you could lose the right to do business in any way with a defense contractor with contracts with the federal government.
10 U.S.C. § 2408 prevents a person from working with a defense contractor following specific fraud convictions. Anyone convicted of felony fraud arising from a contract with the Department of Defense is barred from working for a contractor in the future. This includes:
- Managing or supervising any contractor or first-tier subcontractor;
- Serving on the board of directors of a defense contractor;
- Consulting for any defense contractor or first-tier subcontractor; or
- Having any other form of involvement with a defense contractor or first-tier subcontractor.
This ban lasts for five years from the date of conviction. However, the Secretary of Defense can waive all or part of this five-year prohibition in the interest of national security.
Ineligibility for Employment with a Receiver Corporation
There are strict regulations on corporations that can serve as receivers of insured depository institutions or foreign banks. These federal regulations can prevent your employment with these corporations based on a prior criminal conviction. According to 12 U.S.C. § 1822, these corporations must establish standards for hire that include the prohibition of anyone that has been convicted of a felony. This could include a conviction in either state or federal court.
Ineligibility to Engage in the Insurance Business
There are also employment limitations following a felony conviction in industries that do not deal directly with the federal government. Despite their independence, certain industries are heavily regulated by the government. The business of insurance is one of those industries.
Working in the business of insurance involves the writing of insurance policies or the reinsuring of risks. Employment-related to either of these activities is barred under 18 U.S.C. § 1033 for anyone convicted of a felony that included acts of dishonesty, breach of trust, or a violation of Section 1033. This section includes criminal penalties for anyone that sells insurance without the proper licensing.
This ban is not final. While a valid state insurance license is not enough to get around this ban, it is possible to obtain written permission to continue working in the insurance field. This permission must come in writing from “any insurance regulatory official authorized to regulate the insurer.”
Ineligibility to Own or Operate an Institute of Higher Learning
A criminal conviction could also limit your ability to own or operate an institute of higher learning, including a private college. Specifically, this prohibition extends to the owner of an institution or its chief executive officer. 20 U.S.C. § 1002 sets out the limitations for eligibility in both cases.
Specifically, the statute bars the institution's owner or chief executive from maintaining their position if they are convicted, plead guilty, or plead nolo contendere to a crime related to unlawfully use of federal student assistance program funding. The offense could involve the unlawful acquisition or use of these funds. Any fraud conviction related to these funds also applies.
Ineligibility for Employment with Regulated Seller of Controlled Substances
While federal law outlaws the use of a variety of controlled substances, the reality is there are some individuals and entities that are licensed to produce or distribute these drugs. This could be for anything from research to medical purposes. It should come as no surprise that these industries are heavily regulated. For many, working with these companies is impossible based on their criminal background.
21 U.S.C. § 830 authorizes employers for these entities to ask potential employees about their criminal background. The statute allows for the rejection of any candidates with criminal convictions related to controlled substances.
Denied Enrollment in Job Corps
Job Corps is a federally funded career education and job training program intended for young adults. For many, it is a bridge to employment. Unfortunately, certain criminal convictions can limit your ability to make use of this program.
The eligibility for Job Corps is set out in 29 U.S.C. § 3195. Job Corps cannot bar entry into the program based on most “individual contact with the criminal justice system.” There are important exceptions, however. No one convicted of murder, child abuse, rape, or sexual assault will be eligible. Further, a person on probation, parole, or supervised release may only be eligible with the approval of their supervisor or parole officer.
Fighting Back Against Collateral Consequences with a Houston Federal Crimes Lawyer
As we discussed with each individual statute, some of these collateral consequences can be mitigated. In certain cases, they expire on their own after a set amount of time. In others, approval from a government official could waive these employment limitations. These outcomes can be rare, however, and are far from guaranteed.
Your best chance at avoiding limitations on your future employment is by defeating the charges you face at trial. Federal charges are often defensible, and acquittals can happen in any type of case. Board Certified Criminal Defense Attorney Doug Murphy has a proven record of success in federal court. To learn more about your options, schedule a free consultation with the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today.