News Release ~ 10/24/2012

NACDL Launches Publicly Available Restoration of Rights Database

Washington, DC (October 24, 2012) – The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) is pleased to offer as both a resource for its members and as a service to the general public, a collection of individual downloadable documents that profile the law and practice in each U.S. jurisdiction relating to relief from the numerous civil rights and other consequences of criminal conviction. NACDL today launches this new section of its online Resource Center to house NACDL member and former U.S. Pardon Attorney (1990-97) Margaret Colgate Love’s comprehensive work on this topic in a user-friendly format. It promises to be an indispensable guide for defense lawyers as well as members of the public affected by the collateral consequences of a conviction and those re-entering society or the workforce after a conviction.

As a result of the twin crises of overcriminalization and mass imprisonment in the United States, the population that can be served by this tremendous new resource is, sadly, enormous. Currently, there are some 2.3 million people behind bars in America, more than in any other nation on earth. The U.S. also leads the world in prisoners per capita at approximately one in every 100 adults. And with more than 4,500 federal crimes on the books and tens of thousands more in the regulations, not to mention the endless libraries of state and local criminal offenses, it is no surprise that it is reported that some 65 million people, or one in four Americans, have an arrest or conviction record.

This new resource offers free assistance to those tens of millions of people and their lawyers, offering an interactive map with individual profiles summarizing the law and practice in each U.S. jurisdiction and the federal system regarding relief from the collateral consequences of conviction, including obtaining a pardon, expungement and the restoration of civil rights. Click on a jurisdiction and you will get a short summary and a full profile detailing that jurisdiction’s law relating to both the loss and restoration of civil rights and firearms privileges and discussing any provisions on non-discrimination in employment and licensing. These materials will be an enormous aid to lawyers in minimizing the collateral consequences suffered by clients and in restoring their rights and privileges. 

In addition to the jurisdictional profiles, there is a set of charts covering all 50 states plus territories and the federal system, that provide a side by side comparison that makes it possible to see national patterns in restoration laws and policies. 

“This incredible project is but one of Margaret Love’s tremendous contributions to the extensive work of NACDL’s Task Force on the Restoration of Rights and Status After Conviction. This NACDL task force is in the midst of two years of hearings across America. NACDL will release this groundbreaking study upon the conclusion of the hearings detailing the many ways in which even a conviction for a low-level crime can have lasting, life-changing and even life-long effects in innumerable contexts,” said NACDL President Steven D. Benjamin. “NACDL believes that a rational and humane criminal justice system requires that offenders who have served their time be able to successfully reintegrate into society. A guide such as this to aid in the restoration of one’s rights is essential.”

A team of pro bono attorneys at the firm of Crowell & Moring LLP, led by partner Harry P. Cohen, provided significant assistance with this project, as did a number of law students from the Washington College of Law at American University and the University of Toledo School of law. Detailed acknowledgements are provided on the project’s home page, which is now live and publicly available at www.nacdl.org/rightsrestoration.

You can also listen to a new episode of NACDL’s podcast series, “The Criminal Docket,” introducing the Project and explaining its purpose, available here.

Contact: Ivan J. Dominguez, Director of Public Affairs & Communications, (202) 465-7662 or idominguez@nacdl.org.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 10,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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