If you have been convicted of a federal or state felony, you may experience a loss of certain rights. In addition, your conviction may carry with it a series of conditions. These restrictions and conditions vary based on (1) jurisdiction and (2) nature of the offense. Common rights that are lost include:
- The right to vote
- The right to serve as a juror
- The right to possess a firearm or body armor
- The right to drive
In addition, common conditions associated with felony convictions include:
- Drug or alcohol treatment
- Registration as a sex offender
- Drug testing
The Right to Vote
The right to vote, also known as enfranchisement, allows U.S. citizens aged 18 or older to vote in national, state, and local elections. Residents register their addresses and receive voting cards. On election day, legally-registered voters present their voting cards in order to receive a ballot to vote. Unfortunately, convicted felons are not permitted to vote when they are incarcerated or on probation or parole.
The severity of felon voting restrictions varies in each jurisdiction. Some states such as Florida forbid any convicted felons from voting for the rest of their lives unless they receive a pardon by the Governor and a majority of the legislature.Only Maine and Vermont permit convicted felons full state voting rights.
The Right to Serve as a Juror
Felony jury exclusion is the most common form of restriction practiced by a majority of states, as well as federal courts. This means that convicted felons are not allowed to sit on juries in most states and all courts covered by the federal legal system. This is permissible because the Supreme Court of the United States has said that serving on a jury is not a fundamental right protected by the U.S. Constitution.
The Right to Possess a Firearm
Most states, as well as the federal government, forbid convicted felons from possessing any form of firearm. Felons in possession of a firearm face heightened penalties, such as up to 10 years in federal prison. However, some states, in following the Second Amendment, permit anyone, regardless of status, to own a firearm.
The Right to Drive
Courts allow state legislatures to place reasonable restrictions on the right to drive in order to promote the safety and welfare of the general public. Defendants convicted of serious traffic offenses, such as reckless driving and driving under the influence, may be stripped of their driver’s licenses. Loss of the right to drive makes it difficult for convicted felons to commute. However, this right may be restored after the felon has served their sentence.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me Restore My Rights?
Many states let felons restore their rights after serving their sentences and satisfying all additional conditions, such as restitution or successfully completely parole. A criminal defense lawyer can counsel you on what rights have been affected and whether they can be restored.