If you think a misdemeanor is no big deal, you couldn’t be more incorrect. While you’re not likely to head to prison and may not face the largest of fines, convictions affect you in other ways, too. Even if the penalties for your misdemeanor seem minor, they can affect your everyday life. How? They hurt your reputation.

Imagine getting a conviction for a DUI. It’s a misdemeanor, but you’ve paid the fines and done the requirements needed to fulfill the court’s requests. Although that’s true, if you apply to a job where you need to drive, you might be out of luck. Few businesses will hire drivers with a history of DUIs.

Planning to apply for an apartment? That could be difficult too. While some landlords might be willing to accept those with criminal records, others only choose tenants without records. That DUI, although seemingly minor, could be limiting your ability to move and live where you want.

The collateral consequences of a DUI can be significantly worse than the penalties you face in court. You could lose your job, be viewed poorly by your community or be unable to work where you want because of your background. Even a misdemeanor has the potential to throw your life into an unstable situation, which isn’t good.

To reduce the risk of collateral consequences, it’s important to avoid a conviction at all costs. If you can’t avoid a conviction, getting the lowest possible charge is in your best interests. Your attorney can help you develop a strong defense against the allegations that you’re facing, so you have a better chance of protecting your reputation.

Source: TIME, “A Misdemeanor Conviction Is Not a Big Deal, Right? Think Again,” Maya Rhodan, accessed Oct. 04, 2017