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One of the biggest parts of my criminal defense practice is advising Idaho clients about the potential “collateral consequences” of a conviction. Collateral consequences are different from direct consequences like jail, prison, probation, etc. They include being precluded from voting in national or state elections, not being able to possess a firearm, or losing your professional license.

Recently, the New York Times ran a  story by Nirja Chokshi about another collateral consequence for people convicted of sex offenses against children. If you have such a conviction, the Department of Homeland Security will revoke your passport and issue a new one with specific language indicating the holder has a criminal conviction for a sex crime involving a child. Whenever you travel, you will be identified as a sex offender.

The article contains some arguments against such a policy by Janice Bellucci, a California lawyer and founder and executive director of the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws.  These concerns include the fear the law will simply be the beginning of a slippery slope: “Today, it’s people convicted of sex offenses involving minors, but, given the current political environment, perhaps next it will be Muslims,…. Or maybe it will be people who are gay.”

Whether you agree with the new policy or not, if your criminal defense attorney isn’t telling you about the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction, he or she isn’t doing their job. You need a new attorney. Collateral consequences to a criminal conviction are real and they hurt.