According to the 2005 Survey of Violence Victimization in New Mexico, one out of every four adults in New Mexico will be a victim of domestic violence during their lifetime. In 2007, there were 22,286 domestic violence incidents reported to law enforcement within the state. Domestic violence is a serious crime with severe and far-reaching consequences for both the victim and the alleged perpetrator. For purposes of this article, we are focusing on the consequences for the alleged perpetrator.
Aside from serious criminal penalties, there are several many other consequences to a domestic violence conviction and even to allegations of domestic violence. These are often referred to as collateral consequences. Domestic violence charges can follow an individual around for a very long time and become a factor in several unexpected situations. Findings of domestic violence can have disastrous immigration consequences for non-citizens. A finding of domestic violence can also impact the right to carry a firearm. Additionally, a domestic violence conviction can affect an individual's employment, security clearances, student loan, and scholarship eligibility.
Domestic violence charges are especially serious for non-citizens. Even in the absence of a domestic violence conviction, non-citizens may face deportation, loss of immigration status, and future inadmissibility into the U.S. In many cases, admission of guilt alone may trigger deportation or loss of immigration status. Making the situation even more difficult for non-citizens, Early Intervention Programs, Conditional Discharges, and Deferred Sentences that ultimately end in a dismissal of charges may require a defendant to admit guilt. Since admitting guilt may lead to deportation and other negative immigration consequences, even otherwise very favorable outcomes are not available to the non-citizen.
Under both New Mexico and federal law, a person convicted of domestic violence may not possess a license to carry a firearm. Under federal law, the loss of the license is permanent, and each violation of this law carries a possible prison sentence of up to ten years. This can be especially damaging if the defendant's job requires carrying a firearm, like police officers, members of the armed forces, or armed guards. A domestic violence conviction also bars an individual from hunting with a firearm.
A conviction for domestic violence will have other serious employment consequences. A growing number of employers conduct background checks on prospective employees and are generally reluctant to hire an individual convicted of a crime. It is estimated that up to two thirds of employers will not hire an individual with a criminal record. Worse yet for a those charged with domestic violence, a finding of domestic violence may itself disqualify the person for many jobs.
Furthermore, a conviction of domestic violence may trigger the revocation of a number of state-issued and/or professional licenses or make an individual ineligible to obtain a license. These may include medical, nursing, contractor, education, real estate, or several types of care licenses. An individual's government security clearance or ability to obtain clearance may also be compromised by allegations of domestic violence, especially if the particular clearance requires the individual to carry a firearm.
Domestic violence convictions will affect an individual's eligibility to obtain a student loan or scholarships in many cases. Many public and private institutions ask scholarship and student loan applicants whether they have been convicted of a domestic violence crime and consider it a factor when making a decision. Other scholarships, including some ROTC scholarships specifically make individuals who have a domestic violence conviction ineligible.
If you are being accused of domestic violence, it is important to understand and consider all of these collateral consequences as your case proceeds. It is especially important to understand these issues when deciding whether or not to accept a plea offer. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to explain this to you and to help guide you through a very difficult process.