CRIME AND CRIMINALS;
March 28, 2003
CONSEQUENCES OF A FELONY CONVICTION
By: Christopher Reinhart, Associate Attorney
You asked for a list of the consequences (other than a fine and imprisonment) of a felony conviction.
A convicted felon:
1. loses the right to become an elector and cannot vote, hold public office, or run for office, although he can have these rights restored;
2. is disqualified from jury service for seven years, or while he is a defendant in a pending felony case (CGS § 51-217);
3. loses the ability to have firearms; and
4. could lose a professional license or permit, although licensing agencies are restricted in their ability to revoke licenses because a person cannot be disqualified from engaging in any occupation, profession, or business for which a state license or permit is required solely because of a prior conviction of a crime except under certain conditions.
Employers can ask job applicants whether they have been convicted of a crime although federal anti-discrimination laws place some restrictions on the use of criminal histories. State law also prohibits employers, including the state and its political subdivisions, from taking certain actions against people who have their conviction records erased by an absolute pardon.
In addition, a number of statutes apply to people convicted of certain felonies or types of crimes.
1. The State Board of Education (SBE) cannot issue or renew, and must revoke, a certificate, authorization, or permit to someone convicted of certain crimes. The SBE can also take one of these actions if the person is convicted of a crime of moral turpitude or of such a nature that the board feels that allowing the holder to have the credential would impair the credential’s standing.
2. The Department of Children and Families must deny a license or approval for a foster family or prospective adoptive family if any member of the family’s household was convicted of a crime that falls within certain categories, which can include felonies.
3. Landlords can evict a tenant who was convicted of a violation of federal, state, or local law that is detrimental to the health, safety, and welfare of other residents. Federal and state law for public housing allows eviction based on conviction of certain felonies. Different rules apply to elderly people.
4. “Megan’s Law” requires a person to register on a sex offender’s list for certain periods for committing certain sexual offenses (CGS § 54-250 et seq. ). The offenses include felonies such as first, second, and third degree sexual assault. Also, anyone convicted of a sex offense requiring registration must provide a DNA sample (CGS § 54-102g).
5. Someone convicted under federal or state law of a crime involving possession or sale of a controlled substance is not eligible for federal assistance for higher education expenses for certain periods.
6. State law bars anyone convicted of a drug possession or use felony under federal or state law from receiving benefits under the temporary assistance for needy families or food stamp programs unless the person (1) has completed his court imposed sentence, (2) is satisfactorily serving probation, or (3) completed or will complete a court imposed mandatory substance abuse treatment or testing program (CGS § 17b-112d).
In addition, private organizations may also consider a person’s criminal background. For example, Little League recently adopted regulations to check volunteers and employees for convictions of crimes against or involving minors.
A person forfeits his right to become an elector (a voter) upon conviction of a felony and commitment to prison and cannot vote, hold public office, or be a candidate for office (CGS § 9-46). But the law allows the right to vote to be restored after he has paid all fines and completed any time served in prison and parole (CGS § 9-46a).
In addition, every elected municipal officer or justice of the peace must be an elector in his town and anyone who ceases to be an elector of the town must immediately cease to hold office (CGS § 9-186).
A felon regains the right to vote by (1) contacting any voter registration official and (2) providing written or other satisfactory proof that he has been discharged from confinement or parole and has paid all conviction-related fines (CGS § 9-46a).
It is a criminal offense for a felon to possess a firearm or electronic defense weapon (CGS § 53a-217). The law defines a “firearm” as a “sawed-off shotgun, machine gun, rifle, shotgun, pistol, revolver, or other weapon, whether loaded or unloaded from which a shot may be discharged” (CGS § 53a-3(19)). A person convicted of a felony is not eligible for an eligibility certificate or a permit to carry a pistol or revolver and the certificate or permit is automatically revoked for conviction of a felony (CGS §§ 29-28, 29-36i). In addition, the person must transfer any pistols or revolvers to someone eligible to possess them or the Public Safety commissioner (CGS § 29-36k).
Many statutes authorize government agencies to revoke or suspend licenses or permits for conviction of a felony. But the law also restricts the ability of agencies to do so. A person is not “disqualified to practice, pursue or engage in any occupation, trade, vocation, profession or business for which a license, permit, certificate, or registration is required to be issued by the state of Connecticut or any of its agencies solely because of a prior conviction of a crime” (CGS § 46a-80(a)).
Connecticut law declares a public policy of encouraging employers to hire qualified ex-offenders (CGS § 46a-79). A person is not disqualified from state employment solely because of a prior conviction of a crime. The state can deny employment or a license, permit, certificate, or registration if the person is found unsuitable after considering (1) the nature of the crime, (2) information pertaining to the degree of rehabilitation of the person, and (3) the time elapsed since the conviction or release (CGS § 46a-80). These statutes (CGS § 46a-79 et seq. ) prevail over agencies’ authority to deny licenses based on the lack of good moral character and to suspend or revoke licenses based on conviction of a crime. But they do not apply to law enforcement agencies, although an agency can adopt such a policy (CGS § 46a-81).
Licenses, Permits And Conviction Of A Felony
Many licensing and permit statutes authorize an agency to suspend or revoke a license or permit based on conviction of a felony, including the following.
1. Architects (CGS § 20-294).
2. Private detectives, watchmen, guards, and patrol services (CGS § 29-158).
3. Professions under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Health specifically including healing arts, medicine and surgery, osteopathy, chiropractic, natureopathy, podiatry, physical therapists, nursing, nurse’s aides, dentistry, optometry, opticians, psychologists, marital and family therapists, clinical social workers, professional counselors, veterinary medicine, massage therapists, dietician-nutritionists, acupuncturists, paramedics, embalmers and funeral directors, barbers, hairdressers and cosmeticians, and hypertrichologists (CGS § 19-17 and various other statutes).
4. Attorneys (CGS § 51-91a).
5. Judges, family support magistrates, workers’ compensation commissioners (CGS § 51-51i).
6. Radiographers and radiologic technologists (CGS § 20-74cc).
7. Midwives (CGS § 20-86h).
8. Licensees for (a) electrical work; (b) plumbing and piping work; (c) solar, heating, piping, and cooling work; (d) elevator installation, repair, and maintenance work; (e) fire protection sprinkler systems work; (f) irrigation work; and (g) sheet metal work (CGS § 20-334).
9. Major contractors (CGS § 20-341gg).
10. Lead abatement consultants, contractors, and workers (CGS § 20-481).
11. Public Service Gas Technicians (CGS § 20-540).
12. Public Accountants (CGS § 20-281a).
13. Psychologists (CGS § 20-192).
14. Individuals and businesses selling insurance (CGS § 38a-702k)
In addition, statutes prohibit licensing a convicted felon as a pawnbroker (CGS § 21-40) or a professional bondsman (CGS § 29-145). A person convicted of a felony cannot be employed as an agent, operator, assistant, guard, watchman, or patrolman, subject to the general state policy (CGS § 29-156a). The Department of Consumer Protection can suspend, revoke, or refuse to grant or renew a permit for the sale of alcoholic liquor if convicted of a felony (CGS § 30-47).
CGS § 19a-80 allows the Public Health commissioner to suspend or revoke a day care provider's license if any employee having direct contact with children has been convicted of any felony in which the victim is under age 18.
Licenses, Permits And Certain Crimes
Other licensing and permit statutes include provisions on suspension or revocation on conviction of certain crimes (such as those related to the profession, fraud, or extortion) or lack of good moral character. These could involve felony convictions. These statutes include the following.
1. Consumer collection agencies (for actions of a partner, officer, director, or employee) (CGS § 36a-803).
2. Real estate appraisers (CGS §20-521).
3. Occupational therapists (CGS §20-74g).
4. Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons (CGS §§ 20-316, 20-320).
5. Service dealers, electronics technicians, apprentice electronics technicians, antenna technicians, radio electronics technicians (CGS § 20-354).
6. Sanitarians (CGS § 20-363).
7. Landscape architects (CGS § 20-373).
8. Interior Designers (CGS § 20-377r).
9. Hearing aid dealers (CGS § 20-404).
10. Community Association Managers (CGS § 20-456).
11. Pharmacy licensees (CGS § 20-579).
12. Practitioners distributing, administering, or dispensing controlled substances (CGS § 21a-322).
13. New home construction contractors (CGS § 20-417c).
14. Physical therapy assistants (CGS § 20-73a)
The consumer protection commissioner can refuse to issue or renew a home improvement contractor or salesman registration of anyone required to register as a sexual offender. The Home Inspection Licensing Board can refuse to issue or renew a home inspector license or a home inspector intern permit to anyone required to register as a sexual offender (CGS §§ 20-426, 20-494).
The state Personnel Act permits state agencies to discharge classified employees for incompetence or “other reasons relating to the effective performance of [their] duties” (CGS § 5-240(c)). Its regulations allow the state to dismiss employees who are convicted of a (1) felony, (2) misdemeanor committed while on duty; or (3) misdemeanor committed while off-duty that could affect their job performance (Regs. State Agencies § 5-240-1a). In most cases, it must give employees notice and a hearing prior to dismissal. And a union member may grieve and get an arbitrator’s ruling on whether the conviction was just cause for discharge under the specific terms of the union contract.
Pam Libbey of the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) reports that the department does not have a policy specifying when background checks, including criminal history checks, must be done for state job applicants, and each agency sets its own rules.
Asking job applicants to indicate whether they have been convicted of a crime is permissible but Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 appears to restrict an employer's ability to use criminal background information in the hiring process (42 USC. § 2000e, et seq. ). The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces Title VII, has decided that disqualifying people who have criminal records from jobs is discriminatory because the practice disproportionately affects African American and Hispanic men. (Those two groups have much higher criminal conviction rates than do Caucasian men. )
The EEOC has ruled repeatedly that covered employers cannot simply bar felons from consideration, but must show that a conviction-based disqualification is justified by “business necessity. ” The legal test requires employers to examine the (1) nature and gravity of the offense or offenses, (2) length of time since the conviction or completion of sentence, and (3) nature of the job held or sought. Under this test, employers must consider the job-relatedness of a conviction, the circumstances of the offense, and the number of offenses (EEOC Compliance Manual, § 604 Appendices).
State law prohibits employers, including the state and its political subdivisions, from taking certain actions against people who have their conviction records erased by an absolute pardon. An employer cannot require an employee or prospective employee to disclose such records or deny employment or discharge an employee solely because of records. An employment application form asking for criminal history information must contain a clear notice that the applicant need not disclose erased information and that he is considered never to have been arrested and can swear it under oath (CGS § 31-51i).
The State Board of Education (SBE) can revoke a teacher or school administrator certificate or an authorization or permit (such as those held by athletic coaches, substitute teachers, and teachers teaching outside their endorsement area) of a person convicted of a crime of moral turpitude or of such a nature that the board feels that allowing the holder to keep the credential would impair the credential’s standing (CGS § 10-145b(m)(1)).
The SBE must revoke a certificate, permit, or authorization when the holder is convicted of certain crimes. This includes convictions for (1) a capital felony; (2) arson murder; (3) any class A felony; (4) a class B felony, except first-degree larceny, computer crime, or vendor fraud; (5) risk of injury to a minor; (6) deprivation of a person’s civil rights by a person wearing a mask or hood; (7) second-degree assault of an elderly, blind, disabled, pregnant, or mentally retarded person; (8) second-, third-, or fourth-degree sexual assault; (9) third-degree promoting prostitution; (10) substitution of children; (11) third-degree burglary with a firearm; (12) crimes involving child neglect; (13) first-degree stalking; (14) incest; (15) obscenity as to minors; (16) importing child pornography; (17) criminal use of a firearm or electronic defense weapon; (18) possession of a weapon on school grounds; (19) manufacture or sale of illegal drugs; and (20) crimes involving child abuse (CGS § 10-145b(m)(2)).
The SBE can deny certificate, authorization, or permit application if the applicant has been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude or of such a nature that the board feels that granting the credential would impair its standing (CGS § 10-145b(m)(3)). The SBE cannot issue or reissue a certificate for a person convicted of one of the crimes listed above until at least five years after the person finishes serving his sentence (including probation or parole) for the conviction (CGS § 10-145i).
FOSTER FAMILIES AND ADOPTION
The Department of Children and Families (DCF) must deny a license or approval for a foster family or prospective adoptive family if any member of the family’s household was convicted of a crime that falls within certain categories of crimes, such as (1) injury or risk of injury to a minor; (2) impairing the morals of a minor or similar offenses; (3) violent crimes against a person; (4) possession, use, or sale of controlled substances within five years; and (5) illegal use of a firearm or similar offenses (Conn. Reg. § 17a-145-152). These crimes include felonies. DCF can also refuse to renew a license for the same reasons.
The general summary process procedures and those that apply to renters of mobile manufactured homes allow a landlord to bring eviction proceedings against a tenant who was convicted of a violation of federal, state, or local law that is detrimental to the health, safety, and welfare of other residents (CGS §§ 21-80, 47a-23).
Causes for eviction from public housing are slightly different for elderly people and others, but both are subject to eviction for certain felonies. Federal regulations for a federally subsidized project allow a landlord to evict a tenant only by judicial action pursuant to state or local law, unless preempted by federal law or action of the United States (24 CFR § 247. 6).
Under federal and state laws, an elderly person may only be evicted for good cause. The elderly (over 62), blind, and physically disabled cannot be evicted except for good cause. Good cause, relevant to a senior housing complex, includes voiding of the rental agreement because the tenant was convicted of using the premises for prostitution or illegal gambling, or material noncompliance with the rental agreement (CGS § 47a 23c). (See OLR report 2002-R-0734 for more information).
There is also cause for eviction from public housing when someone is associated with someone arrested for a drug related offense. Federal law appears to authorize HUD to evict tenants who associate with people arrested or convicted of drug-related offenses. In fact, the law prohibits a tenant’s eviction except for cause.
One ground for eviction under federal law is serious or repeated violations of the material lease terms, such as failure to pay rent, fulfill tenant obligations, or other good cause (24 CFR § 966. 4 (l)(2)(i)). One of the provisions that the law requires in leases by federally assisted housing agencies is an assurance that a tenant, members of his household, guests, and other people under the tenant’s control will refrain from engaging in drug-related criminal activity on or near the premises. “Drug-related criminal activity” means the illegal manufacture, sale, distribution, or use of a controlled substance or possession with intent to engage in these activities (24 CFR § 966. 4 (f)(12)). (See OLR report 2000-R-0256 for more information. )
The law gives public housing authorities certain discretion when evicting tenants for drug-related criminal activity. Specifically, the authority may consider all the circumstances of the case, including the seriousness of the offense, the extent of participation by family members, and the effects that the eviction would have on family members not involved in the proscribed activity. In appropriate cases, the authority may permit continued occupancy by uninvolved family members. The housing authority may also require a family member who engaged in illegal drug use to present evidence of his successful completion of a treatment program as a condition of continued occupancy (24 CFR § 966. 4(l)(5)(i)).
STUDENT LOANS AND AID
A higher education student is not eligible for federal assistance if he is convicted under federal or state law of a crime involving possession or sale of a controlled substance. This includes grants, loans, or work assistance. For a conviction of possession, a person is ineligible for one year for a first offense, two years for a second offense, and indefinitely for a third offense. For a sale conviction, a person is ineligible for two years for a first offense and indefinitely after a second offense. A student can regain eligibility before the end of the specified period if (1) he satisfactorily completes a drug rehabilitation program with certain criteria or (2) the conviction is reversed and otherwise removed (20 USC § 1091(r)).
Other organizations may consider a person’s criminal background. For example, Little League regulations for the 2003 season require volunteers and employees to undergo annual background checks and prohibit anyone convicted of a crime against or involving a minor from participating as a volunteer or employee. At a minimum, the regulations require local leagues to check the sex offender registry in the state where the applicant resides or, if unavailable, a state criminal background check if allowed by law. Leagues can elect to conduct a national criminal background check (see OLR Report 2003-R-0048).