What Does “Rights Restoration” Refer to for Someone With a Felony Conviction?

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Michelle Martin with The Martin Law Firm.

What Does “Rights Restoration” Refer to for Someone With a Felony Conviction?
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Civil rights restoration refers to the process of restoring rights to a person who was previously convicted of a felony. Typically a person convicted of a felony loses their right to vote in a process called “felony disenfranchisement”; other civil rights that may be suspended following a felony conviction include holding public office, serving on a public jury, and the right to own and bear arms.

Felony convictions can occur in a variety of situations.

From the type of offense a person was convicted of to the number of previous convictions a person experienced, felonies can occur in a variety of situations. For example, someone who is convicted of multiple misdemeanors may find their next misdemeanor charged as a felony due to the repeat conviction. However, depending on the felony and the surrounding circumstances, a criminal defense attorney may be able to argue for the felony to be reduced to a misdemeanor, and/or for the convicted individual’s civil rights to be restored following felony disenfranchisement. 

If all restitution has been paid including completion of any sentencing, a felon’s civil rights may be restored.

The laws regarding civil rights restoration can vary from state to state, but in most cases a person convicted of a felony may have their rights restored upon completing any jail time, probationary period, and additional restitution sentenced by the judge for their case. An individual who believes their civil rights have been restored after completing sentenced jail time and probation can check their status with their state’s clemency office, which can be located by state on the Restoration of Rights Project website. However, a criminal defense attorney may be able to argue for a restoration of someone’s civil rights prior to and regardless of the state’s established eligibility requirements.

If a conviction is expunged or pardoned, a felon may be able to have their civil rights restored.

In addition to being released from jail and completing any additional sentencing, if someone has a felony conviction expunged from their record or receives an official federal or state pardon, they may also be eligible to have their civil rights restored. Expungement is not particularly common for felonies, but it may be possible if an attorney can argue for the reduction of the charge to a misdemeanor. Expunging a criminal record or even filing for an order of nondisclosure can open up certain employment, academic, and even housing opportunities that may not be available to convicted felons. However, it typically takes an experienced criminal defense attorney to argue for expungement, and you have a better chance if your sentence has been completed without issue. 

To discuss your own civil rights or those of a loved one with a felony conviction, it’s important to reach out to a criminal defense attorney in your area. These attorneys understand the state-specific and federal legislation governing rights restoration and can help you assess the fastest and more likely path to fully restored civil rights following conviction.

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