Prosecuting Collateral Consequences
Citation: 104 Geo L.J. 1197 (2016)
Criminal law scholars have long agreed that prosecutors wield vast and largely unreviewable discretion in the criminal justice system. This Article argues that this discretion now extends beyond criminal penalties and broadly reaches civil public policy decisions, such as deportation and licensing. As a result of ubiquitous plea bargaining and collateral consequences—state-imposed civil penalties that are triggered by criminal convictions—prosecutors can deliberately exercise discretion to trigger or avoid important civil consequences. This aspect of prosecutorial discretion has been underexamined, partly because of a lack of awareness of collateral consequences. But as a result of important new initiatives designed to promote information about collateral consequences, prosecutors as well as defendants are becoming more likely to know that even minor convictions can trigger much more serious civil penalties.