When an individual becomes a convicted felon, numerous aspects of their life will change. One issue that felons or ex-convicts have to endure is ‘the loss of some rights’. While incarcerated, felons may lose certain rights. However, they may regain these rights after their release from prison; This is not always the case though. Some felons will be unable to enjoy some rights even after their release from prison.
Significantly, the rights that felons lose will depend on the state they reside in. Convicted felons may be able to maintain certain rights if they move to another state.
In this article, we will explain the rights that convicted felons may lose temporarily or permanently.
7 Rights That Convicted Felons Lose
1. The right to travel abroad
First of all, felons who are on probation are usually not allowed to leave the state without permission. If a felon travels out of the state without permission, they may be penalized. Hence, a felon released on parole must obtain permission before attempting to leave the country.
Even a felon who is not on probation may still be unable to travel abroad. Felons convicted for drug-related crimes are especially restricted from traveling out of the country. The federal government will not issue a passport to many felons who were convicted of drug trafficking. If the individual already has a passport, the United States government may revoke the passport.
Individuals who have court orders that prevent them from getting a passport or traveling may also have their passports revoked.
Importantly, if a felon can travel out of the United States, the individual may be unable to enter their destination country.
A few foreign governments have reservations about allowing felons to enter into their country. Hence, border control may run background checks before allowing convicts into the country. Individuals who have prior convictions for trafficking may be unable to enter these countries.
Foreign governments reserve the right to deny entry to felons who may be seen as a risk. Canada, for instance, can refuse entry to convicted felons.
To enter Australia, visitors are subjected to a character test. Hence, felons may be denied entry because of their previous convictions, criminal record and the severity of the crimes they committed. The Chinese government may allow felons to enter the country but felons will need to register with the police after entry.
2. The right to vote
Some felons may lose the right to vote and others may retain this right, even while they are in prison. The loss or maintenance of the right to vote varies according to the state where the felon resides. In some states, disenfranchisement occurs and is maintained for the period when the felon is serving a prison sentence. After release from prison, the felon regains their right to vote.
Even though this right is automatically restored, the felon cannot begin to vote. The individual will need to register to exercise their right to vote. Ex-convicts that have been released on parole may need to complete their parole before they can vote again.
In 11 states within the United States of America, convicted felons may lose their right to vote indefinitely. They will only regain this right if they apply for and receive a governor’s pardon. The right to vote may also be restored after the felons pay the fines that they owe. In 2 states, felons retain their right to vote even while they are in prison.
The loss of the right to vote has been a source of debate. Some individuals believe that felons who shun the laws of the society that they live in, should not be allowed to make decisions concerning the society. Others state that the disenfranchisement of felons contradicts universal suffrage.
3. The ability to purchase and possess firearms
According to the second amendment, all citizens of the United States have the right to bear arms. This right is conditional and felons cannot retain this right even after release from prison.
If the felon owned any firearms before conviction or imprisonment, they are required to turn it over to the police. After their release from prison, felons (especially individuals convicted for violent crimes) will be unable to purchase or keep firearms.
Before selling a firearm, the store runs a background check. If the individual who wants to purchase the gun is a felon, the store will refuse to sell the gun to them.
However, a felon may be able to purchase a firearm illegally. If the felon is caught with the weapon, they will be charged with another felony.
Felons who would like to retain their right to own a firearm can work towards the restoration of their rights. Below are a few ways a felon can regain their right to own firearms:
– Felons can apply to have their criminal records expunged. If the felon is eligible for the expungement, and their petition is approved, the individual will regain their second amendment rights.
– If the felon committed a non-violent crime, they can petition for a restoration of their rights to bear arms.
– Felons can apply for a governor’s pardon. Approval of the pardon will not expunge the felon’s records but it will allow the felon to retain his/her second amendment rights. Felons may also apply for a federal pardon. However, this process is time-consuming, expensive and will entail hiring a lawyer.
4. The right to work
Citizens of the United States have a right to seek employment and receive fair consideration for a position. However, felons may lose this right or find that it has been hampered severely. When considering candidates for employment, many companies run background checks. If the candidate is a felon whose previous criminal record may pose a threat to the company and its workers, the felon may not be considered for employment.
An increasing number of companies support the ban-the-box movement. However, these companies may consider a criminal record when hiring and they will refuse to hire felons who could be a potential risk.
Furthermore, felons will be unable to work in some government positions or run for public office.
Importantly, federal laws state that discriminating against felons when hiring employees is a crime. Therefore, employers can only refuse to hire a felon if the position the individual wishes to fill is related to their previous criminal offenses. For example, refusing to hire a felon convicted for financial crimes as the company accountant is reasonable.
Each state has its laws regarding the impact a criminal record can have on the employment process.
The right to employment may be restored to some extent if the felony occurred over a decade again. If the felon has not been arrested or convicted of a crime in about 8-10 years, their chances of gaining employment will be increased.
Significantly, a felon who wishes to work in a professional field, or acquire their license may need to apply for a pardon first.
5. Parental Rights
A felon can lose custody and parental rights but this is not always the case. Individuals who are convicted of a felony do not automatically lose their parental rights. If the felon was the sole parent, the child will reside in foster care for a period. During the period of incarceration, the felon will still have partial parental rights and may be able to call or see their child/children.
In cases where the felon was convicted for violent or sex-related crimes, they lose their parental rights immediately. This is because the felon will be seen as an unfit and dangerous parent. In this case, visits to the child/children may not be allowed or will be supervised.
Even if a felon retains their parental rights, they are still at a disadvantage. If the felon and their partner wish to divorce, the court may grant custody to the parent without a criminal record.
6. The ability to apply for and receive government grants or benefits
In some states, felons are banned from receiving and using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food stamps). Furthermore, felons convicted for drug and sex-related offenses may be banned from receiving section 8 housing assistance.
Importantly, the loss of access to these benefits and subsidies could make a poor felon’s life even harder.
7. Jury Duty
Felons are usually exempted from serving on a jury; this is for 2 main reasons.
First, the individuals that are summoned for jury duty are selected from the list of registered voters. Felons are unable to vote when incarcerated but even after they are released, their right to vote may not be restored automatically.
Secondly, if the felon does not register to vote after their release from prison, they will not be called to serve on a jury.
Various arguments support or oppose the ‘inability of a felon to serve on a jury’. Of all the rights a felon can lose, the inability to serve on a jury has the least consequence.
In conclusion, being convicted of a felony hurts the rights you enjoy. If you qualify, you can apply for an expungement or even a pardon. This can help a felon regain some of their rights.
Robert Gomez was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. He currently lives in Northern California with “the wifey,” “the kids,” “the dog,” and “that cat,” 🙁 He is also a former journalist who has interviewed murderers on death row. Felonyfriendlyjobs.org was born to help ex-felons get a second chance in life.