Scooter Libby’s Disabilities

Criminal sentencing buffs often think about the costs of criminal conviction that don’t appear in a judge’s sentence. These additional costs are sometimes called civil disabilities or collateral sanctions, and include everything from the loss of voting rights and the right to own a gun to deportation and restrictions on where you can live. Scooter Libby will presumably continue his appeal. (But here’s a question. What if he wins reversal on some issue requiring remand, gets tried and convicted again, and is resentenced…does the President’s commutation place a cap on his maximum sentence? Or could he be sentenced to jail all over again?) Assuming that his conviction is affirmed, he we will hold the status of convicted felon. Notwithstanding the commutation of his prison term, he’ll face extra burdens that don’t appear in the sentencing order.

Some collateral sanctions are imposed at the federal level. Thus, it is likely that Libby will be permanently excluded from federal jury service. His right to ship or receive a firearm has been signficantly limited. Other sanctions are particular to a given state. If Libby lived in D.C., it is likely he’d be able to vote in the 2008 Presidential election. Since he lives in Virginia, however, he will be disenfranchised. And his bar membership is surely at risk. I’m sure he’ll be looking for other ways to improve the world, but he’d better think again if he wants to teach impressionable youth. The state may deny him a teacher’s license as a result of his conviction.

Libby is lucky. Those convicted of drug offenses, crimes of violence, and sexual offenses face a much larger set of disabilities. But for a lawyer involved in politics, some of these small-gauge sanctions may continue to smart for years to come.

You may also like...

2 Responses

  1. Mike Goad says:

    Yes, Libby is lucky – lucky to have friends in high places. It’s too bad that there are people more deserving of commutation or pardon of their sentences who aren’t getting that kind of luck.

  2. Jamie says:

    Well over 99% of folks in Libby’s situation would trade places with him in a heartbeat.

    That’s a great question about the effect of the commutation should his case be reversed and remanded. I feel fairly certain that his lack of legitimate appellate issues will foreclose the possibility of us ever finding out whether the commutation would have any bearing on a retrial.

    Anyone else out there have a guess?