When making a big decision, obviously the more you know, the better. That’s especially true about a plea agreement for conduct within the reach of the state’s criminal code. Well, there are more things to consider than the statutory penalty for the criminal act — things that might affect your life for years to come. Read on for six things you should know about collateral consequences under Minn. Stat. 245C Subd. 14 & 15.
Rehabilitation in Minnesota is Decades Old. In 1974, the Minnesota legislature announced the state’s policy to “encourage and contribute to rehabilitation” pathways that help criminal offenders return to roles as responsible citizens. The state introduced a series of laws that had two goals: First, rehabilitate criminal ex-offenders and the second, to protect the state’s citizens by keeping ex-offenders away from certain jobs where they were likely to hurt vulnerable people or destroy property. Forty-three years later, citizens continue to deal with the difficulty inherent in rehabilitation as a goal.
What are collateral consequences? Remember, the Minnesota legislature passed laws whose secondary goal was to protect its citizenry from ex-offenders who might harm them. Current law requires that the Department of Human Services (DHS) carry-out criminal background checks on persons who apply for employment where they will have “direct contact or access” to persons receiving services in DHS facilities. DHS uses the criminal background check information to disqualify applicants on the basis of prior criminal offenses.
For example, Section 245C, subsection 14, prohibits direct contact by ex-offenders who have committed felonies, gross misdemeanors, or misdemeanors. This is true whether the incarceration was through conviction, admission, or an Alford plea (that’s a guilty plea with a protest of innocence often used to plea to a lesser charge when the prosecution has enough evidence to convict on the original greater charge). The disqualification also can result from an investigation that results in an administrative finding of an offense under Section 245C.15.
DHS in certain circumstances can set aside the disqualification or the license holder can issue a variance.
What types of crimes are we talking about as disqualifying crimes? We are talking about permanent disqualification for persons who violate laws under Section 245C.15, such as the predatory offender registration laws, murder (first, second, and third degree), manslaughter (first and second degree), assault, domestic assault, spousal or child abuse/neglect, drug distribution that causes great bodily harm, aggravated robbery, kidnapping, murder of unborn child (first, second, and third degree). There are more but this list is illustrative.
15-year disqualification for lesser felonies. The law provides a 15-year disqualification period for crimes of a lesser nature, if the offense occurred less than 15 years ago and the offense was a felony, such as wrongfully obtaining assistance, false representation, food stamp fraud, arson (second or third degree), possessing burglary tools, insurance fraud, indecent exposure, and others.
The law also imposes 10-year disqualification for gross misdemeanors where the sentence discharged less than 10 years ago and 7-year disqualification for misdemeanors where the sentence discharged less than 7 years ago.
Is there an appeal process from an adverse determination? A DHS job applicant who receives a DHS disqualification notice may request a reconsideration. DHS may:
- rescind the disqualification if the data was incorrect;
- set aside the disqualification if the person proves they are no longer a harm to others;
- vary the disqualification to permit employment in certain circumstances, or
- affirm the disqualification.
Set asides and variances do not apply, however, to permanently disqualifying offenses.
Unfortunately, it’s not just DHS that disqualifies ex-offender job applicants. Even though not codified in the law, collateral consequences also affect applicants for jobs in the private business community. Many people who have youthful run-ins with the law find later in life that those activities leave a permanent mark on their record and keep them from getting permanent employment. This may happen even if the criminal offense has nothing to do with the job sought.
Anyone facing a plea bargain for criminal activity should consult with an attorney before agreeing to any deal. Learn what effect your decision may have on your employment future before you sign on the dotted line.
To talk more about this, or anything else, please contact us. We are your resource for all your criminal law questions.