Can a Jury Being Instructed on Collateral Damage of a Conviction?

Charlotte Criminal Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “What are the long term effects of being convicted of a crime?”


One of the fundamental principles of the criminal justice system in the United States is the right to have a trial by a jury of your peers. With any jury trial comes a set of instructions that either side wants to be read to the jury, if a judge so allows. Usually, instructions include explanations or definitions to various aspects of the case and charges at hand. These instructions are a matter of fact and relate to the case and the types of charges a defendant is facing.


Jury-Judge-Gavel-Charlotte-Criminal-Lawyer-300x200Since the 1976 court case of State v. McMorris, the right for a criminal defendant to have the jury instructed on the punishment that goes along with conviction has been upheld. The facts and law of the case are argued to a jury. The punishment accompanying these crimes are also a fact and part of the law of the case, and therefore, the jury should be instructed on it. Since this decision, there have been additional inquiries and questions about just how much of a punishment should be relayed to the jury. Does the instruction stop at the punishment dictated by North Carolina statutes and laws? Or, can additional collateral punishments be explained to a jury?


North Carolina courts have approached collateral punishment instructions as follows. In 2011, the court considered whether the jury should be informed about collateral punishments that go along with a sex offender registration. In State v. Prestwood, the defendant was a 16-year-old student who was charged with three counts of sexual battery toward three girls ages 16 to 17. The defendant tried to inform the jury that registry as a sex offender is a consequence of the charge. The judge did not allow this and denied subsequent requests to inform the jury of the consequences of conviction. The defendant was convicted on all three counts. On appeal, the court found that the defendant had the right to tell the jury the consequences of the charge. Not informing the jury of the consequences could have been a violation of his constitutional rights.


The idea behind informing the jury of the punishments accompanying a criminal conviction is to ensure that they know the seriousness of the task with which they are assigned. The effects of a criminal conviction do not always end when the defendant’s sentence ends. Oftentimes, the collateral consequences are much more far-reaching than people know. Informing the jury of the consequences of conviction is not meant to sway their decision, but instead to make sure they are weighing all the facts at hand to come to a decision that is fair and just. The jury needs to know the severity of the punishment, including collateral consequences, so they can come to the best conclusion possible.


The criminal law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are here to help defend you against criminal charges. No detail is too small in our eyes. We make sure to use all applicable defenses so that you receive a fair trial with the proper jury instructions. Contact us today for a consultation. If you find yourself facing criminal charges and need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney in or around Charlotte, Lake Norman, or our new office in Monroe (by appointment only until 2019), please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828 or find additional resources here.








The criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC make it their mission to zealously defend their clients on a wide range of criminal matters at both the state and federal levels. These matters may include any charge from traffic offenses; DWI/DUI; drug charges (from simple possession to possession with intent to distribute and trafficking); gun permit denials; weapons offenses; and property crimes (larceny, breaking and entering, robbery, fraud, embezzlement, white collar offenses); to sexually related offenses (indecent exposure; sexual assault, crimes against nature, removal from sex offender registry); and violent crimes (domestic violence; assault; manslaughter; homicide, murder). Other legal issues that Arnold & Smith, PLLC criminal clients may be facing include restraining orders, restraining order and probation violations, expungements; appeals; and immigration issues related to criminal charges. Our criminal defense attorneys are passionate about ensuring that individuals empower themselves by being informed about their constitutional rights, and stand at the ready to fight in the defense of those facing criminal charges.





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