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MONTGOMERYBAR.ORG

Collateral consequences of contact
with the criminal justice system:

Independence Foundation Fellowship aims to
expand collaboration between LASP & MontCo
Office of Public Defender
By Marion Hoffman Fraley, Communications Manager,
Legal Aid of Southeastern PA (LASP)

A

rrests for criminal matters - even without conviction -
often trigger civil legal issues. For example, being arrested
and held can prompt loss of job and income, and make it
impossible for someone to maintain housing. " There's a snowball
effect of consequences, " said Lily Austin, Independence Fellow at
Legal Aid of Southeastern PA (LASP).
The collateral consequences of contact with the criminal
justice system are far-reaching. " Upon contact with the criminal
justice system, starting at arrest, residents not only face criminal
consequences, but also the loss of life essentials like employment,
benefits, housing, and family unity through civil legal issues that
spring up because of clients' circumstances, or by operation of
law, " Austin said.
The fellowship, funded through the Independence
Foundation in Philadelphia, is designed to connect clients in the
Montgomery County Public Defender's Office with civil legal
services, to address such matters as family law issues, evictions,
and appealing denials or terminations of public benefits.
Modeled on collaborations between civil legal aid and public
defender organizations in major cities, Austin seeks to connect
civil legal aid with public defense in suburban Montgomery
County. Based in LASP's Pottstown office, she is working
with the Montgomery County Public Defender's Office in
Norristown and Pottstown as part of the Fellowship.
Some of the goals are to:
*	

Provide civil legal services as a form of " civil defense. "
Intertwining criminal and civil legal issues threaten
the loss of life essentials and cause displacement from
community. Austin gave a hypothetical example of
an individual who is detained pre-trial, and then is
released on bail and has a pending criminal case. The
client has fallen behind on rent, and then faces an
eviction action. That individual also loses employment,
applies for unemployment compensation and is
denied. LASP attorneys can help defend against the

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eviction and represent the client to appeal the denial of
unemployment.
*	

Assist clients with collateral consequences. " Collateral
consequences are legal 'disabilities' ... usually resulting
from a criminal conviction or specific sentence. These
are not considered part of a defendant's punishment
under the law, " Austin said. " Civil legal assistance can
also help clients avoid the loss of life essentials after their
criminal cases have been disposed. "


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SIDESBAR WINTER 2021

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