A convicted felon is an individual who has been convicted, or found guilty of, committing a felony. The term convicted felon often refers to individuals who have already finished serving their prison sentence and have re-integrated into their community.
Felony convictions, however, tend to stay on an individual’s criminal record much longer than misdemeanor convictions. They are also more difficult to have cleared, or expunged from an individual’s record.
There are often places where individuals are required to indicate whether they have been convicted for a felony, such as when they are applying for:
- Certain jobs;
- Housing; and
- Other things that require applications.
Do Convicted Felons Have Restricted Rights?
In some circumstances, but not always, convicted felons may have some of their civil rights restricted. This will depend on the laws of the state, which may vary.
In other situations, a felony conviction may affect an individual’s rights in terms of:
- Driving privileges;
- Child custody;
- Child visitation; and
- Other areas.
What Are Some Common Types of Felonies?
Common examples of felony charges include:
- Felony and assault and battery;
- Grand theft charges;
- Drug crimes;
- Felony drunk driving, or felony DUI;
- Various homicide charges; and
- Sexual assault crimes.
What Is the Difference Between a Felony Arrest and a Felony Charge?
Every state has its own laws regarding what offenses are classified as felonies as opposed to misdemeanors. Felony crimes are, in general, crimes that are punishable by more than one year in prison.
A misdemeanor crime, on the other hand, is typically punishable by less than one year in a country or state jail facility. There are also notable differences between a felony arrest and a felony charge.
A felony arrest occurs when law enforcement takes an individual into custody on the suspicion that they have committed a crime. A felony arrest may happen before or after a felony charge is issued against the individual.
A felony charge is what starts the formal legal proceedings against the defendant, or the individual who is accused of committing the felony crime. The district attorney brings formal charges against the defendant before the court.
The exact felony charging procedure typically varies from state to state. Generally, however, there are two different procedures that may be used, including the grand jury and the prosecutor’s complaint.
The grand jury is a group of ordinary citizens who are picked to be part of a jury. They are presented with evidence against the defendant.
The grand jury uses that evidence to determine whether or not the defendant should be charged with a crime. This is not a determination of guilt but, rather, a determination of whether there is enough evidence to bring the defendant to trial.
In states that do not use the grand jury system, they will use a document written by the prosecutor that accuses the defendant of the crime. This is called an information, or a complaint.
This document is presented to the court. In order to ensure that there is enough evidence to go to trial, the court holds a preliminary hearing.
During this hearing, the court examines and considers all of the available evidence and uses that evidence to determine whether or not the defendant should be brought to trial.
What Are the Penalties for a Felony Charge?
Generally, a felony offense, depending on whether it is a state or federal offense, will carry a minimum sentence of one year in prison. Federal felony charges are divided into categories and classes that depend on the severity of the crime.
If the felony offense results in the death of another individual or in serious bodily injury, the charge will be more severe than for other offenses. There are certain theft and property crimes that may result in felony charges if the total value of the property that is stolen exceeds a certain amount.
In some states, the limit is as low as $300. In other states, the limit begins at $1,000.
Do Convicted Felons Have Rights?
As noted above, the rights of convicted felons may be restricted. If an individual has been convicted of a federal or state felony, they may experience a loss of certain rights.
In addition, their conviction may carry with it a series of conditions. These restrictions and conditions vary based on the jurisdiction and the nature of the offense.
Common rights that are lost by convicted felons include:
- The right to vote;
- The right to serve as a juror;
- The right to possess firearms or body armor; and
- The right to drive.
In addition, common conditions that are associated with felony convictions include:
- Drug or alcohol treatment;
- Registration as a sex offender; and
- Drug testing.
The Right to Vote
The right to vote, which is also referred to as enfranchisement, is provided to U.S. citizens 18 years of age or older to vote in national, state, and local elections. A resident registers their address and will receive a voting card.
On election day, voters who are legally registered present their voting cards and receive a ballot to vote. One of the felon restrictions convicted felons face is that they are not permitted to vote when they are incarcerated or on probation or parole.
The severity of felon voting restrictions will vary by jurisdiction. In some states, for example, Florida, forbid a convicted felon 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 allow convicted felons full state voting rights.
The Right to Serve as a Juror
The right to serve as a juror is the most common of the rights lost after felony convictions. This restriction is practiced by a majority of states and federal courts.
This means that a convicted felon is not permitted to sit on a jury in most states and all courts that are included in the federal legal system. This practice is allowed because the Supreme Court of the United States has held that serving on a jury is not a fundamental right protected by the U.S. Constitution.
The Right to Possess a Firearm
The majority of states, in addition to the federal government, prohibit felons from possessing any type of firearm. A felon in possession of a firearm faces heightened penalties, such as up to 10 years in federal prison.
Some states, however, permit any individual, regardless of status, to own a firearm.
The Right to Drive
State legislatures are permitted to place reasonable restrictions on a convicted felon’s right to drive in order to promote the safety and welfare of the general public. A defendant who is convicted of serious traffic offenses, for example, reckless driving and driving under the influence, may lose their driver’s licenses.
Losing the right to drive often makes it difficult for a felon to commute. This right, however, may be restored after the felon has served their sentence.
If an individual has been convicted of a felony, they can consult with a convicted felon lawyer who can help them regain some of the rights they had prior to their conviction.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me Restore My Rights?
There are many states that allow convicted felons to restore their rights after they serve their sentence and satisfy any additional conditions, for example, restitution or successfully completing parole. If you have been convicted of a felony, a criminal defense lawyer can advise you of the rights that are affected in your state and whether they can be restored.