The Hidden Costs of a Criminal Conviction in New Jersey: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

  • Criminal Defense

It’s Not Just About Time Served

If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense, you’ve probably already spent a great deal of time thinking about what might happen if you’re convicted. You’ve talked over the potential sentence with your criminal defense attorney and all your options if the worst happens, such as appeal or expungement. But there may be other costs you haven’t thought of — and probably should.

7 Hidden Costs of a Criminal Conviction

Having to spend time in jail or prison and having a criminal record following you can impact almost every area of your life. Understanding the impact a criminal conviction can have on your future can help you make informed choices when it comes to your defense.

1. Court Costs, Fees, and Fines

Any time you’re dealing with the legal system, court costs and fees are likely to be involved. For example, there are fees for violation of the statute as well as for having to serve warrants or subpoenas. The Clerk of the District Court charges its own fees for things like filing a notice of appeal. 

Many criminal convictions also carry potential fines and restitution as part of the sentence:

  • Indictable offense in the first degree: up to $200,000
  • Indictable offense in the second degree: up to $150,000
  • Indictable offense in the third degree: up to $15,000
  • Indictable offense in the fourth degree: up to $10,000
  • Disorderly persons offense: up to $1,000
  • Petty disorderly persons offense: up to $500

Even without the fines associated with the conviction, if you add up all the fees and court costs, you could potentially be paying hundreds or more in additional costs.

2. Legal Fees

Legal fees are a substantial part of the costs involved in criminal defense. Attorney’s fees are generally charged on a per-hour basis, and more serious crimes, such as indictable offenses, can result in more hours spent and a higher bill at the end. If you’re convicted, you may decide to spend more to attempt to appeal the verdict or use a lawyer to work on expunging your record after you’ve served your sentence.

3. Changes to Your Employment Eligibility

While convictions for disorderly persons offenses don’t generally impact employment, convictions for indictable offenses can. In New Jersey, employers aren’t allowed to ask about your criminal history until you have completed an interview unless it’s directly relevant to the job, such as for a job in law enforcement or security.

However, after the interview, most employers will conduct a background check and ask if you have been convicted of any indictable offenses. If the answer is yes, it could keep you from getting the job even if you’re otherwise qualified.

4. Strained Relationships

Relationships are built and maintained on regular contact and shared experiences — and both of these are hard to do when you’re serving time. Even a sentence of just a few months can have a direct impact on the quality of your family relationships and friendships. Serving time means potentially missing out on birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and other special days, and the hard truth is that those are memories you can’t get back.

5. Child Custody Ramifications

Being convicted of a crime doesn’t make you a bad parent, but if your sentence includes jail or prison time, it can have serious repercussions for your custody agreement. If you currently have a shared custody arrangement, being sentenced to jail time can mean a change in the order to sole custody — awarded to the other parent — and very limited visitation time, if any. If you are a single parent with sole custody, your children could even end up in foster care or be placed with a relative or friend because you aren’t able to act as a guardian from jail.

6. Loss of Voting Rights

If you’re convicted of an indictable offense or a disorderly persons offense and sentenced to jail time, you will not be able to vote while you are incarcerated. While it may seem like a minor thing to lose your voting rights after a conviction, voting is a fundamental American right, and not being able to have a say in what happens in your local, state, and federal governments can have far-reaching effects.

For example, if you aren’t able to vote against a property tax hike, this could affect whether you’re able to afford to buy a house when you are released.

7. Losing Touch With Current Culture

While you’re not completely isolated from the outside world while you’re serving your sentence, it’s a different day-to-day experience and can leave you feeling behind and out of place when you are released. Technology, for example, tends to advance quickly, and if you’re serving a sentence of 10 years, it could be difficult to re-enter a world where there have been major changes to how cell phones work or how job applications and resumes are processed.

Protect Yourself and Your Future With a Strong Defense

While nothing is ever guaranteed when it comes to the criminal justice system, the best way to protect yourself from potential losses associated with a criminal conviction is to put up a strong defense. Call the Hernandez Law Firm, P.C., at 732-582-5076 to talk with a criminal defense attorney about your case and find out how we can help.

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