Collateral Consequences after Padilla v. Kentucky: From Punishment to Regulation

St. Louis Public Law Review, Vol. 30, 2011

42 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2011 Last revised: 30 Apr 2016

Date Written: July 11, 2011


This Article analyzes the scope of Padilla v. Kentucky, concluding that its logic extends beyond deportation to many other severe and certain consequences of conviction that are imposed by operation of law rather than by the sentencing court.It proposes a set of reforms that would limit the disruptive effect of these so-called “collateral consequences” on the guilty plea process and make a defense lawyer’s job easier. Part I describes a case currently pending in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that may yield some important clues about how broadly the Padilla doctrine will be applied to status-generated consequences other than deportation. At issue in Commonwealth v. Abraham is whether a retired public school teacher should have been warned by his lawyer that pleading guilty to a misdemeanor sex offense would result in the permanent forfeiture of his vested pension benefits. Part II looks at the collateral consequences doctrine as applied by the courts before Padilla to demonstrate its weakness in the Sixth Amendment context. It then examines the Padilla decision itself and its progeny to date and proposes a test for determining when a lawyer should be constitutionally required to notify a client about a particular legal consequence of conviction. It concludes that the pension forfeiture at issue in Abraham meets that test.

Part III proposes three non-constitutional reforms to complete Padilla’s unfinished business where the substance of plea agreements is concerned. The goal of these reforms is to minimize the extent to which harsh categorical sanctions destabilize the plea process on which the justice system has come to depend. Using principles set forth in the ABA Criminal Justice Standards, the Article recommends that jurisdictions should 1) compile and disseminate information about collateral sanctions; 2) eliminate those collateral sanctions that are disproportionately severe or bear only a tenuous relationship to the crime; and 3) provide timely and effective ways to avoid or mitigate the sanctions that remain. These reforms will not only shore up the plea system, they will propel a move away from a punitive model of collateral consequences that is frequently self-defeating and unfair to one that can be justified in both moral and utilitarian terms.

Keywords: padilla v. kentucky, collateral consequences, ineffective assistance of counsel, Sixth Amendment, ABA Standards, pardon, Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act, sex offender registration

Suggested Citation

Colgate Love, Margaret, Collateral Consequences after Padilla v. Kentucky: From Punishment to Regulation (July 11, 2011). St. Louis Public Law Review, Vol. 30, 2011, Available at SSRN:

Margaret Colgate Love (Contact Author)

Law Office of Margaret Love ( email )

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