Any person accused of committing a crime will face certain consequences if convicted. It may be a fine, probation, or the loss of liberty. These are called direct consequences.
Aside from direct consequences, however, those convicted of crimes often face what are also known as collateral consequences. These types of consequences can vary in form from something like the loss of a driver’s license to deportation (if a non-citizen). They are not a direct result or condition of a conviction or sentence, but they are an event that is often triggered by a conviction.
It is not uncommon for collateral consequences to make a surprise appearance after a client has been convicted and sentenced. A leading reason for this is because most collateral consequences are not laid out in black and white in the same law that defines the crime or sentence at issue. In fact, frequently, collateral consequences are spelled out in different titles and chapters of our laws where one would least expect them. For examples, consider collateral consequences facing professionals, more specifically health professionals (ex: doctors, nurses, LPNs, etc.) If convicted of a crime, doctors and nurses often have much more to lose than just their liberty; they can lose their professional licenses and the ability to practice in their chosen profession. Consider the following:
- Under the Drug Act, 35 P.S. §§ 780-101-144, “practitioners” (defined below) convicted of a misdemeanor under this act shall automatically have their license suspended for a period up to a year. 35 P.S. § 780-123(c). (The suspension may be stayed in “those cases where a practitioner has violated the provisions of this act only for the personal use of controlled substances by the practitioner and the practitioner participates in the impaired professional program approved by the appropriate State licensing board for a period of between three and five years.” Visit the Pa. Dept. of State website on the Professional Health Monitoring Program for more information: http://www.dos.pa.gov/ProfessionalLicensing/OtherServices/ProfessionaHealthMonitoringPrograms/Pages/default.aspx.)
- Under the Medical Practice Act, 63 P.S. §§ 422..1 – .51a, a “board-regulated practitioner’s” license may be in jeopardy for “being convicted of a  felony or  being convicted of a misdemeanor relating to a health profession or  receiving probation without verdict, disposition in lieu of trial or an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition in the disposition of felony charges, in the courts of this Commonwealth, a Federal court or a court of any other state, territory or country.” 63 P.S. § 422.41(3)
So the collateral consequences can be debilitating and career-ending. And you’ll note, these laws that affect these professionals’ licenses, neither of them are found in the Crimes Code (Title 18) or the Sentencing Code (Title 42, Chapter 97). And the one in the Drug Act, it is not even found in the penalties section of that Act (35 P.S. § 780-113(b)). So these collateral consequences can be elusive to both the criminally accused and sometimes their counsel. Therefore, it is important that all professionals facing criminal charges—everyone with an occupational license, not just health-professionals—notify their attorney of their licensure and ask questions up front about it so the issue can be addressed front and center.
*The Drug Act defines “practitioner” as (i) a physician, osteopath, dentist, veterinarian, pharmacist, podiatrist, nurse, scientific investigator, or other person licensed, registered or otherwise permitted to distribute, dispense, conduct research with respect to or to administer a controlled substance, other drug or device in the course of professional practice or research in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; (ii) a pharmacy, hospital, clinic or other institution licensed, registered, or otherwise permitted to distribute, dispense, conduct research with respect to or to administer a controlled substance, other drug or device in the course of professional practice or research in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 35 P.S. § 780-102.
**The Medical Practice Act defines “board regulated practitioner” as a medical doctor, midwife, physician assistant, respiratory therapist, licensed athletic trainer or drugless therapist or an applicant for a license or certificate the board may issue.