In New York, a felony drug conviction can result in multiple consequences, including the potential for imprisonment, stiff fines, and negative impacts on careers and relationships. The negative impact of a felony drug conviction can continue to affect people long after they have served their sentence. These are the negative effects people can suffer from felony convictions that continue well into the future. In some states, one potential collateral consequence of a felony drug conviction is a ban on the ability to access public benefits programs.
Access to public benefits and felony drug convictions
In 1996 as a part of the failed War on Drugs, Congress enacted a law that created a lifetime ban on the ability to access Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) benefits for people convicted of felony drug crimes. However, states were allowed to opt out of the ban. Many states imposed modified bans, and 25 opted out completely. In states that modified the federal ban and imposed their own restrictions, people convicted of felony drug crimes have their ability to access food assistance or cash benefits restricted and are forced to surmount multiple obstacles to get the help they need. As a result, a potential ban on benefits eligibility is an issue to address while building a criminal defense strategy to combat drug charges.
New York is one of the states that opted out of the ban and does not restrict access to SNAP or TANF based on felony drug convictions. However, if someone is convicted of a felony drug crime in New York and later relocates to a state with a total or modified ban, they might find that they are ineligible for food and cash assistance.
Imposing bans on access to public benefits does not work as a deterrent to crimes. Instead, it affects people at a time when they need help the most and can motivate them to turn to new criminal acts to make ends meet.