Most attorneys who represent individuals under investigation or prosecution for criminal offenses at some point have to answer the "How will this affect me?" question. Clients want to know what the consequences will be when they consider their various options regarding disposition of the matter before them. Answers will vary with each circumstance and jurisdiction. Yet, it is a very important question to answer accurately and thoughtfully, acknowledging what is and is not knowable, or as Donald Rumsfeld accurately described, the "unknown unknowns."
But, using Secretary Rumsfeld's colleagues as an example, youthful indiscretions don't always condemn one to a life of penury and ignominy. Many lawyers point out on their blogs that President George W. Bush had a misdemeanor conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol and resulting license suspension in
Maine in 1976 and that his Vice President, Dick Cheney,
had two in Wyoming. Even sophisticated and good people make mistakes that can haunt them for years to to come.
In many jurisdictions, the crime of DWI/DUI was considered less serious decades ago. And, but for their honesty and status as public officials, the arrests of these men would probably have remained forgotten as they occurred prior to the digitization of records and their publication on the internet. Four decades ago, the world wide web and these mens' future as presidential and vice-presidential candidates would have fallen into the "unknown unknowns" category. I doubt either's attorney, if they were represented, advised, "Someday when you run for President..."
Though they may have been advised about the immediate consequences to their driving privileges, they probably weren't advised about their future ability to travel to Canada. Neither had travel problems that I'm aware of, but for many individuals whose business or personal interests require them to travel to Canada, this may be a serious consideration in deciding whether to plea guilty or no contest to a DWI/DUI charge, go to trial, or pursue some other type of disposition that will not result in a conviction. Should counsel advise every DWI client of this consequence? Maybe or maybe not, but in an energy city like
Houston with close ties to Calgary, it may be a good idea.
This is but a single example of a collateral consequence of a conviction. Traditionally, lawyers focus on the consequences of a conviction of a felony or crime of moral turpitude, and more recently, the immigration consequences for non-citizens. However, as states license
more and more professions,
lawyers may wish to learn more about their clients, their goals, and plans, in order to better represent and advise them. It will also help them to humanize their client to a prosecutor, a judge, or a jury. And, importantly, it will let the client know they care.