What are the hidden costs of taking a felony conviction? When criminal defendants are deciding how to best handle their case, oftentimes there are a number of collateral consequences nobody tells them about. A court and a district attorney aren’t under any obligation to tell you about some of these consequences. While it’s impossible to foresee every consequence from a case, there are some every criminal defendant should be aware of.
Restitution must be considered in every criminal case, Colorado Revised Statute (C.R.S.) § 18-1.3-603. Restitution is money that you will be responsible for paying to the victim of a crime or to a victim’s compensation board to pay them back for any losses they took due to the crime you are accused of. You may have to plead guilty and be sentenced before you even know how much the victim will be asking for. This is due to a portion of the statute that lets a District Attorney have ninety days (or possibly more under some circumstances) after your conviction before you are told how much the restitution will be. Once you plead guilty, your ability to challenge restitution becomes very limited since most plea agreements will ask that you agree to causation (that your actions caused the victim’s loss) so you are only really able to challenge the amount that’s being asked for, or sometimes to challenge the request because it’s not connected to what you have been convicted of.
Court costs and probation supervision fees will be ordered in every criminal case. These fees are different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and also depend on the offense you’ve been conviction of. It’s important to know that, once you plead guilty, there are going to be a lot of expenses to you associated with your sentence. For example, if you plead guilty to a drug offense, the court has to impose a drug offender surcharge on you, C.R.S. § 18-19-103. The amount you’ll have to pay ranges from $225 for a class 3 misdemeanor to $4,500 for a class 2 felony. Deferred sentences are included in the sentences that require this surcharge, C.R.S. § 18-19-103(1). The court can only waive this fee after a hearing where YOU have the burden of showing that you are financially unable to pay it, C.R.S. § 18-19-103(6). Sex offenders have a similar surcharge ranging from $150 for conviction of a class 3 misdemeanor to $3,000 for conviction of a class 2 felony, C.R.S. § 18-21-103. Deferred sentence are also included under this surcharge requirement, C.R.S. § 18-21-103(1).
When you plead guilty to a felony, you’re also potentially giving yourself an habitual offender strike. In Colorado, our version of the “three strikes and you’re out law” is found at C.R.S. § 18-1.3-801. If you have 2 prior felony convictions from charges separately brought and tried within the 10 years before your current charge, and you’re charged with a class 5 felony or higher, you are “little habitual”. That means that the court, if the D.A. files habitual counts against you, has to sentence you to the Department of corrections at 3 times the maximum amount of time you could have normally served. If you have 3 prior felony convictions in your lifetime, it’s times 4.
The number of collateral consequences are numerous and it’s impossible to look into a crystal ball and predict all of them. There can be immigration consequences for non-U.S. citizens, restrictions on your right to keep and bear firearms, suspensions of your driver’s license, protection orders that can prevent you from being around children or family members in certain types of cases, consequences to your ability to be hired for jobs or receive student financial aid, just to name a few. When you are convicted of a crime, make sure you look beyond just what the plea bargain says you’ll have to do and think about how the conviction could affect the rest of your life.
While we hope you benefit from the information we posted above, it is important to note that we always suggest you contact an attorney to advise you and walk you through the legal process so that you can achieve the best possible result.