Legal Guide

After a Felony Conviction, What Rights Do You Lose?

 A felony conviction is a grave occurrence in one's life. Life after incarceration for many ex-convicts can prove very challenging because of the many state-imposed limitations. “Former convicts tend to have very limited options due to curtailment of certain liberties,” a criminal defense lawyer noted.

Forfeiture of rights depends on the jurisdiction and nature of the crime. Upon release from prison, an ex-convict can expect to lose the following rights and privileges;

Suffrage Revocation

When people get convicted of a crime, they can lose the right to vote. This forfeiture is termed legal disenfranchisement and varies from state to state. In some cases, revoking voting rights for convicts will depend on the facts surrounding their indictment. If, for example, the arrest occurred in one state, but the conviction occurred in a different state, then this forfeiture may not hold. 

Some jurisdictions only revoke the voting rights temporarily; the convict can vote as soon as they leave prison and honor the terms of their parole. Other jurisdictions do not reinstate ex-convicts voting rights. A convicted felon can mount a legal challenge in a bid to overturn this voting restriction.

Access to Employment Opportunities

A criminal record can have far-reaching implications for one’s employment prospects.

Federal employers or those with federal funding may not discriminate against ex-convicts based on their past conviction records. Exceptions occur when the occupation is sensitive or involves vulnerable groups like children. Childcare institutions, law enforcement agencies, and teachers all constitute sensitive groups. Other professions that require licensing, like law and medicine, also preclude the employment of convicted felons.

Employment at the state level can widely vary. Employers have discretion not to consider felons during the hiring process. Convicted felons are not precluded from participating in the application process. Such is the reality for many ex-cons that they usually settle job opportunities with little remuneration.

 Public Housing and Social Benefits

Public housing authorities administer housing projects for the state. These bodies tend to have discretion concerning which tenants to admit. A criminal conviction record can seriously jeopardize one’s eligibility.

This ban extends to public services like jury duty. Social welfare programs like food stamps and government grants also do not cover convicts.

Overseas Travel

Travel bans imposed on ex-convicts depend on jurisdiction. Much like terrorists and war criminals, convicted felons find it challenging to cross international borders without much scrutiny. In some cases, such convicts could have their passports revoked by the issuing state. Canada, for example, has access to the US database for national crimes. Felons fleeing prosecution are not allowed to cross the border once their identity has passed scrutiny. Background checks ensure that ex-cons, especially violent offenders, are restricted to one geographical area.

Right to Possess Firearms

Most jurisdictions and local governments prefer not to allow convicts to have firearms, especially violent offenders or those convicted of drug trafficking. An ex-con can apply for felony expungement. Expunging criminal records is a tedious legal process that requires the advice of experienced attorneys. A convicted felon can seek legal services in an attempt to seal their criminal records. Such records, even minor investigations or arrests, can negatively impact a felon’s life. A federal pardon is one way a convicted felon can regain his right to possess firearms.

Child Custody for Convicted Felons

The issue of custody for felons can be an emotional one. Judges understand the significance of parents in the life of their children. However, when criminal convictions come into the picture, the child's well-being supersedes all such sentiments. The denial of parental rights is most common in cases involving convictions for grave offenses like murder and aggravated sexual assault.

Even minor offenses like substance abuse can have a bearing on the outcome of custody hearings. Judges rarely award custody of the child to a convicted parent.

Running for Public Office

Running for public office is considered the highest form of service a citizen can offer his nation or constituency. As such, the public has come to expect certain traits from anyone aspiring to accomplish such ambitious goals. The issue of convicted felons running for office often raises a lot of questions and incenses a majority of the population. In most people's eyes, former convicts are unfit to offer honest representation.

In ancient times, crimes like bribery condemned their perpetrators to what was considered a civil death-a life ban from participation in community affairs. This ancient philosophy is the foundation of many laws regarding this controversial issue.

In the US, individual states determine the extent of involvement for ex-convicts. As such, there are states that take a liberal stance with regard to this issue. Such states allow convicted felons to participate in elections. Others remain steadfastly obstinate about this issue. Most states just curtail their voting rights in general. It may seem unthinkable for a convict to run for the office of the US President, but there is a precedent. Eugene Debs, a socialist party flag bearer, ran for US Presidency on multiple occasions in the early 20th century.

Collateral consequences refer to the usual repercussions of a criminal conviction. In some states, any brush with the law becomes a matter of public record. Employers and landlords tend to have access to such records, which means that ex-cons may be denied some basic services and opportunities because of their past. Sometimes, a judge may decree that no convictions should appear on a convict's record even after a formal arraignment in a court. This reprieve is to ensure that such convicts do not suffer much stigmatization after serving their sentences.

In a nutshell, convicts generally experience stigma and shame even after paying their debt to society. Depending on jurisdiction or area of residence, an ex-con may feel the full extent of societal pressure bearing down on them.

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