National Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction

Unlike the direct consequences of conviction, such as imprisonment and fines, the indirect — or collateral — consequences of convictions rarely play a prominent role in sentencing or plea negotiations and are often not discussed with the accused. These sanctions and disqualifications are automatically triggered by a conviction but are not part of the punishment set out by sentencing or a plea deal. Collateral consequences can affect convicted people long after the direct consequences of their conviction have ended and include restrictions on occupational licensing, education, housing, public benefits and property rights.

With a grant from NIJ, the American Bar Association (ABA) developed the National Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction, a database containing more than 44,000 separate collateral consequences. The Inventory contains information from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the federal government. 

Who Should Use the Inventory?

Anyone can use the Inventory to search for statutory and regulatory collateral consequences in all major U.S. jurisdictions. It could be particularly useful for researchers, policymakers and practitioners in the criminal justice system. For example, legislators could use it to review consequences in their jurisdictions when they consider possibilities for reform that promote offender re-entry while maintaining public safety.

Inventory Additions and Enhancements

To encourage use of the Inventory as a resource to make informed decisions in plea negotiations and sentencing, the ABA will publish a guide, or benchbook, suggesting ways for judges to inform the accused and their counsel about the database. This way, the accused will be aware of the state-level consequences a conviction will entail.

The ABA is also working on changes that will make the Inventory itself more useful to researchers and state policy analysts interested in evaluating changes to collateral consequences over time. Right now, the Inventory reflects current state-level consequences, so to study collateral consequences before and after reforms are enacted, researchers need to have downloaded the Inventory data before the reforms took place. In the future, the ABA hopes to make archived collateral consequences available through the Inventory and allow users to select past years of the Inventory to see how the consequences in the jurisdiction of interest have changed.

Date Created: February 4, 2016