Most people who have been convicted aim for a fresh start. Sometimes, that includes ridding themselves of the name associated with the dark chapter of their lives. If you are one of those people, you’re probably wondering: can felons change their names?
Changing one’s name as a convicted felon depends on the legal jurisdiction and the nature and severity of the criminal offense. For example, Illinois and Florida prohibit felons from changing names while Georgia allows name changes.
Read on to know whether felons can change their names and if changing one’s name can conceal a felon’s criminal record.
Reason Why Felons Change Their Name
Felons often change their names because they want a fresh start. The “google effect” makes it possible for many people to view their history at any time online, especially if the felony conviction was public.
Finding employment as a convicted felon is possible, but not easy. There’s always the fear of your new coworkers or friends treating you differently once they learn about your past.
Change may be the next best course of action if you can’t convince a search engine to remove links to your name.
Now, even though it’s possible to change names in some states, it won’t prevent your criminal history from being officially reported, such as when there is a criminal background check.
Where Can Felons Change Names?
Depending on the state, a felony conviction may prevent a felon from changing names. In Illinois, for example, the necessary name change forms will require applicants to indicate whether or not they are a convict.
If they show yes, Illinois Law will refuse their name change request. The same goes for Florida law.
The state of Georgia, on the other hand, has no restrictions on name changes. Even convicts may easily petition a court to have their name changed. In New York, a felon can’t change their name without first having their criminal record expunged.
Many states lie in the middle, establishing differences based on the crime committed. A felon needs to contact the court and ask for a court order for a name change. He or she may also need to file other documents with the court to change his or her name.
How About Felons Who Change Names as Part of an Application for a Marriage License?
Felons must fill out an additional document before the civil court grants a marriage license if they have a criminal record and decide to alter their name during the marriage license application procedure.
A criminal conviction and a request for a name change need the submission of evidence of service with the marriage license application. After receiving notice of the application, the prosecuting authority has 30 days to oppose.
The licensing office is not permitted to issue the marriage license with the name change within this thirty-day window. The parties requesting the marriage license can delay the license’s issuance for 30 days or have the license issued without the name change.
The license center may refuse to issue the marriage license with the proposed name change if an objection is submitted. They will still grant a permit without a name change, or the applicant may file a motion to refute the prosecutor’s objection and request a hearing.
The felon must demonstrate at the hearing, via clear and compelling evidence, that they requested a name change in good faith, will not endanger anybody, and will not jeopardize public safety.
If there is an objection, the parties requesting the marriage license may choose to have it issued without the name change or postpone its issuing until after the hearing.
Can Changing Your Name Conceal A Criminal Record?
Simply said, the process of changing your name will not help you hide your criminal history; therefore, you shouldn’t try to do it for that reason. There are many explanations for why this is the case.
When changing your name, most states require you to update all relevant public records personally.
However, even if you skip this official step, your criminal record will still be associated with your new name. A background check will use your Social Security Number, such as those carried out professionally by businesses screening possible recruits.
Your original name and criminal record will be made public in this instance since changing your name does not affect your Social Security number. Similarly, criminal history reveals during a traffic stop or apprehension.
You may be able to take proactive measures, like expunging or sealing an entry, to keep your criminal history hidden from the public, depending on the jurisdiction. Outside of the exceptional conditions of a formal pardon, this is often not attainable for genuine criminal convictions.
Only the governor of your state or the president of the country may generally give pardons, making them very political and improbable absent exceptional circumstances.
How Can Convicted Felons Change Their Names?
Felons must meet certain conditions to petition a civil court for a name change, including being a resident of the state in which they are making the change petition. Name changes with a criminal past are usually far more complex and need handling by a district attorney.
The court will determine whether to approve one’s change petition based on whether they think it was in good faith, without purpose to commit fraud, and in the best interests of public health and safety.
Even though one’s state does not officially prohibit changing a felon’s name because of a criminal past, one will most likely consider it if the court is aware. A lawyer’s advice is appropriate if one can afford it.
Typically, a name change petition requires petition forms and supporting documents like a birth certificate, proof of address, and a picture ID. Before being submitted, petitions may also need to be notarized.
Different states have publishing requirements that compel petitioners to publish notice of their name change in a local newspaper. However, excluded are those who have experienced domestic abuse or are worried for their safety from these laws.
Can A Judge Decline a Name Change?
Crimes involving fraud or deceit are more likely to be deemed disqualifying by a state body for name changes. One thing to keep in mind is that the judge will scrutinize all the reasons throughout the name change court procedure in every state.
It is never permissible to seek a name change to avoid punishment or debt. If the court thinks one is altering their name for this purpose, one might face severe criminal charges since this is a crime in and of itself.
Remember that the judge will make the decision. Petition for legal name changes may not be available to those who are incarcerated at the moment.
Those convicted of a felony, currently under the Department of Corrections’ control, on parole, and those with sex offenses will not be permitted to apply without prior authorization.
A person must attest to the court that the name change is not being done for evading prosecution, fraudulent purposes, or engaging in any other illegal activities.
Before filing a petition for a change of name in California, one may wish to review the California Code of Civil Procedure if they have had previous legal issues. One must get guidance from an experienced attorney if unsure about the legal position.
Although in California, the great majority of name change petitions are granted. A judge will choose the superior court. The court will review all of the information, California name change regulations, and any objections raised.
Reasons a Judge Will Decline Name Change
If the change petition lacks crucial details that the judge, the court, or the law all need, it may be dismissed. That section won’t prevent acceptance if one accurately completes all the change petition papers and provides all the data required by the appropriate court.
One could be rejected if the change in their name is likely harmful, confusing, fraudulent, etc. Don’t use a name change to attempt to avoid consequences, either legally or morally.
A history of financial mismanagement or identity theft often serves as enough justification for a refusal, which one is free to challenge.
A felon must express their reasons for wishing to change their name in their request in detail since the court will determine the weighing factors such as issues like public safety.
While felons can’t completely erase their past, they can avoid dealing with the plight many ex-convicts face.
Overall, once they have completed their sentence and been released from prison, there is no real reason why they should not be able to change their identity. It takes a lot of work, time, and effort, but it can be done.
Ultimately, it depends on the local state law—not the ones on the books today, but the ones that will be in effect when a felon is released.