You know the old saying, “do the crime, forfeit your constitutional rights for eternity?” No, well neither have I. However, in many jurisdictions, both state and federal, there are laws that abolish certain constitutional rights once a person has been convicted of ANY felony. Here in the United States, felonies are considered crimes punishable by incarceration of more than one year in a state or federal prison, and misdemeanors are considered crimes punishable by local jail sentences, fines, or both. Moreover, once a person is convicted of a felony, whether they served time in prison or not, they are forever referred to as a “felon.” Here, we’ll discuss what’s involved in restoring your rights as convicted felon.
Once convicted, a felon loses many basic rights such as, the right to hold public office, exclusion from jury duty, the right to possess a firearm, and more importantly, the right to vote. Exclusion from sitting on a jury is generally a lifetime ban and little headway has been made in restoring this privilege. Further, the ban on firearm possession is codified under US federal law (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)) and prohibits felons from owning firearms, unless that specific right has been restored. With regards to the right vote, it generally varies by jurisdiction. Most states allow voter right restoration after a period of time or completion of probation or parole, however three states, Virginia, Florida, and Kentucky have lifetime bans on a felons right to vote absent approval from the state’s Governor.
How To Restore Your Rights as a Convicted Felons
When it comes to restoring rights, whether it be the right to vote, or the right to possess an own a firearm, many people convicted of felonies simply aren’t aware of the steps required to do so. As someone who canvasses door-to-door during election cycles, I can’t tell you how many times I heard the phrase, “I’m a felon, I can’t vote” from residents. Some use it as an excuse to disengage from the political process, while most see it for it is, voter disenfranchisement. The bottom line is, if you want your rights restored, you have to seek out the info in order to do it. Thankfully, sites like http://www.procon.org/make it simple by listing the requirements for each and every state. Simply find your state, click the link, and follow the directions. You don’t need a lawyer, just a printer to print off the forms, fill them out and submit them to the clerk of the court for your county.
When it comes to restoring your rights as a convicted felon, there are some extra requirements, such as knowing the specific dates of your conviction, or providing the discharge paperwork from the state or federal correctional institute if you were incarcerated. However, chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re smart enough obtain that readily available information. Here in Arizona, you can petition the court to restore your civil (voting) rights, gun rights, and request that your judgment be set aside all in the same form! When applying for the restoration of your gun rights, you’ll have to provide the court a brief explanation of why you’re requesting the right to possess or own a firearm. Usually, by stating you would like to own a firearm to protect your home will be sufficient.
So when it comes to restoring your rights as a convicted felon, remember, you don’t have to forfeit your constitutional rights for eternity, you just have to jump through some well-placed hoops in order to do so. Since 30% of Black men, and nearly 25% of Hispanic men and roughly 5.8 million people overall have felony convictions, many major elections may have had different outcomes if allowed to vote. Moreover, it’s estimated that felons whose right to vote is restored are at least 2/3rds less likely to return to prison! So if you’ve been convicted of a felony, or know someone who has, please share this information on restoring your rights as a convicted felon.
 What Is a Felon and What Is a Felony? – Felon Voting – ProCon.org, , http://felonvoting.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000644 (last visited Apr 2, 2015).
 Loss of rights due to felony conviction – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loss_of_rights_due_to_felony_conviction (last visited Apr 2, 2015).
 Top 10 Pros and Cons – Felon Voting – ProCon.org, , http://felonvoting.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000283 (last visited Apr 2, 2015).