Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2072736
 


 



The New Civil Death: Rethinking Punishment in the Era of Mass Conviction


Gabriel J. Chin


University of California, Davis - School of Law

April 1, 2012

University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 160, p. 1789, 2012
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 308

Abstract:     
Most people convicted of felonies are not sentenced to prison; a majority receive straight probation, or probation with a jail term. However, this hardly means that the conviction is inconsequential. Tens of thousands of federal, state, and local laws, regulations, and ordinances restrict the civil rights, employment, eligibility for public benefits, residence and other aspects of the status of convicted persons.

Accordingly, for many, the most serious and long-lasting effects of conviction flow from the status of being convicted and the concomitant lifetime subjection to collateral consequences. However, courts generally treat collateral consequences as non-punitive civil regulations, and therefore not subject to constitutional limitations on criminal punishment.

This treatment of collateral consequences is surprising. In cases like Weems v. United States and Trop v. Dulles, the Supreme Court understood systematic loss of status not only to be punishment, but to be cruel and unusual punishment.

Further, collateral consequences have practically revived the traditional punishment of civil death. Civil death deprived offenders of civil rights, such as the right to sue, and other aspects of legal status. Most civil death statutes were repealed in the Twentieth Century, but its equivalent has been reproduced through systematic collateral consequences. Instead of losing rights immediately, convicted people now hold their rights at sufferance, subject to limitation and restriction at the discretion of the government.

The new civil death, loss of equal legal status and susceptibility to a network of collateral consequences, should be understood as constitutional punishment. In the era of the regulatory state, collateral consequences may now be more significant than was civil death in past decades. The actions of judges, defense attorneys, and prosecutors should attend to what is really at stake in criminal prosecutions.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 46

Keywords: punishment, civil death, sentencing, corrections, Padilla v. Kentucky

JEL Classification: K14, K42

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Date posted: August 10, 2012 ; Last revised: August 25, 2012

Suggested Citation

Chin, Gabriel J., The New Civil Death: Rethinking Punishment in the Era of Mass Conviction (April 1, 2012). University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 160, p. 1789, 2012; UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 308. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2072736

Contact Information

Gabriel Jackson Chin (Contact Author)
University of California, Davis - School of Law ( email )
Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall
Davis, CA 95616-5201
United States
520-401-6586 (Phone)
530-754-5311 (Fax)

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