Insights from John Hicks, Founder of The Hicks Law Firm, on Navigating Collateral Consequences

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The ramifications of a criminal conviction extend far beyond the prison walls, creating a pervasive impact on individuals who have served their sentences. Even after paying their dues to society, ex-offenders find themselves entangled in a concealed network of challenges, also known to be collateral consequences. These ‘hidden penalties’ manifest in various forms, from obstacles in securing employment to facing housing discrimination, intricately weaving a complex web into the fabric of these individuals’ everyday lives.

John Hicks, the seasoned founder of The Hicks Law Firm, understands the gravity of these collateral consequences and the profound impact they can have on individuals striving to rebuild their lives post-conviction. As he succinctly puts it, “A criminal conviction of any kind can leave your life with more complications than you intended.” 

Employment especially, becomes a formidable obstacle, leaving ex-offenders struggling to secure stable living arrangements. The consequences extend further to essential benefits like food stamps and public housing, placing basic needs in jeopardy. 

The decision to go to trial is often predicated on the client’s life at the time, including their criminal charges and how they are trying to mitigate them with ancillary issues. Beyond the practical implications, collateral consequences affect professional aspirations and personal dignity. For example, if a client is a banker, doctor, nurse, paramedical professional, or has licensure, they should be informed about their livelihood and life outside of these charges. The revocation or suspension of professional licenses can close doors to certain careers, while challenges in obtaining credit hinder financial stability. 

In an effort to shed light on these challenges, The Hicks Law Firm emphasizes the pivotal role of comprehending both the charges and collateral issues entangled in a criminal case. Mr. Hicks advocates for informed decisions, recognizing that each case is unique and necessitates a tailored approach.

“Understanding the charges and their potential impact on a client’s life is crucial for advising them on the right direction to take,” Mr. Hicks states. He emphasizes that there is only so much a client can do depending on the charges, and they can either try their best to help them or roll the dice and go to trial. It is essential to explain the consequences of decisions and the choices made to the client even before accepting a plea or going to trial. The firm explores various avenues, such as pretrial diversion, deferred adjudication, and orders of non-disclosure, as potential strategies to mitigate the repercussions of criminal charges.

In the state of Texas, criminal trials are taken in 2 parts. One is what we call the guilt-innocence phase where they’re found guilty or not guilty. If you’re found guilty, then you have what’s called the punishment phase. If the district attorney refuses to provide a reasonable offer, it may be advisable to go to trial, even if you know you will be convicted, as it may provide a better chance of obtaining a better outcome. 

Crimes like theft, family violence, and felonies carry distinct consequences, impacting job prospects and the ability to obtain special licenses. Mr. Hicks points out that clients with threshold licenses or those convicted of certain crimes, like murder, may face limitations on their professional paths. 

The process of determining whether to plead guilty or to proceed to trial goes beyond the courtroom. Mr. Hicks underscores the importance of weighing the potential outcomes, especially when the district attorney’s offer falls short of reason.

Navigating the aftermath of a criminal conviction requires legal expertise and a deep understanding of the collateral consequences that may follow. Hicks Law Firm offers guidance to individuals seeking to safeguard their futures.

“I believe individuals need the ability to make informed decisions. It’s not the attorney’s job to decide for them; my role is to ensure people understand the consequences of their choices. I don’t make decisions because I don’t live with the consequences. My job is to present all options, pros and cons, so clients can make the best decision for their lives, considering the full 360 view of their situation, including collateral consequences. Ignoring these issues, especially in criminal cases, can have significant impacts on families, jobs, and even basic rights. It’s important to take that comprehensive view of life and make choices with awareness,” states Mr. Hicks.

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