Felony convictions in Florida have long-lasting effects on your life. The negative consequences that follow a felony conviction go far beyond the immediate fine or jail sentence imposed by the court. This blog post describes many of the rights and privileges you lose by being a convicted felon in Florida.
Here in Tampa at Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, we are criminal defense lawyers committed to protecting every one of our clients from convictions. No criminal defendant should accept a felony conviction without first consulting with an experienced criminal defense lawyer whose legal expertise can prevent the conviction or minimize the impact of the case on your life.
What Civil Rights Do Convicted Felons Lose in Florida?
Living your life after a felony conviction in Florida often means confronting challenges most other people never have to face. It’s common for people to think that when someone “serves their time” and completes their sentence, they are free to resume their normal life, to be offered a fresh start.
Unfortunately, felons lose several important civil rights that other people would consider essential to their ability to fully participate in contemporary society. Losing the right to vote, the right to hold public office, and the right to sit on a civil or criminal jury, taken together, amount to the loss of one’s right to civic self-determination.
Loss of the Right to Vote — Until 2018, Florida is one of only nine states in which a convicted felon’s right to vote could be lost permanently. Every felon convicted in Florida is prohibited from casting a ballot in any federal, state, or local election for a time. Under the recently approved Amendment IV to the Florida Constitution, a felon’s right to vote will be restored following the completion of all terms of the felon’s sentence, including parole and probation, and upon full payment of all outstanding fines and fees.
Felons convicted of murder or sex offenses will never regain their right to vote.
The right to vote is among the most sacred in a functioning democracy. Losing the right to vote, especially after being convicted of a felony, eliminates the felon’s ability to choose representatives who might change the laws that may have unfairly led to their conviction or incarceration.
Loss of Right to Possess a Firearm — No convicted felon may possess a firearm in Florida. Federal law also prohibits firearm possession by felons. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s “right to bear arms” does not entitle convicted felons in the United States to possess firearms.
In Florida, the Clemency Review Commission may reinstate a felon’s right to possess firearms after the passage of between five and seven years following the completion of all terms of the sentence imposed by the court. However, no one convicted of a federal felony (federal court) can have their legal right to possession of firearms restored.
Loss of the Right to Serve on a Jury — Every defendant accused of a serious crime in the United States is guaranteed the right to a trial by jury. The right to sit on a jury in any civil or criminal trial is another right convicted felons sacrifice in Florida. The law prohibiting felons from sitting on a jury is rooted in the same principle on which the loss of voting rights is based. Felons are not trusted to make sound, fair, honest judgments. This is an example of how penetrating the stigma of a felony conviction can be in your life.
Loss of the Right to Run for or Hold Elected Public Office — A felony conviction bars a person from being a candidate for or holding an elected public office. Again, losing the right to hold office is the elimination of a felon’s ability to directly participate in the legislative process or governing decisions in their own community.
Loss of Eligibility for Professional/Occupational Licenses — A felony conviction in Florida bars a person from obtaining or renewing a number of important professional licenses necessary to engage in certain occupations, preventing them from pursuing or continuing to earn a living in those fields.
For example, Floridians convicted of a felony who are seeking to obtain a license to work as a teacher, law enforcement officer, childcare professional, many jobs involving the U.S. military, real estate or insurance agent, nurse, cosmetologist, barber, auctioneer, car dealer, may be barred for a period of years or permanently, depending on the nature of their crime.
Many felons who may not be legally barred from obtaining an occupational license can still be denied based on a lack of “good moral character.”
Loss of Right to Enter Certain Foreign Countries — One lesser-known consequence of a felony conviction is being barred from entry into certain countries outside the United States. For example, Canada denies entry to anyone convicted of a felony and to many people convicted of certain misdemeanors. England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Australia also ban convicted felons from entry into their country.
Non-Citizen’s Loss of Rights – Deportation
If you are not a U.S. citizen and you are convicted of a felony in Florida, the federal government can commence deportation proceedings against you and seek an order to remove you from the country.
The convictions that trigger the deportation process include any aggravated felony, a crime of moral turpitude, or crimes involving drugs, domestic violence, or firearms. If you are a non-citizen, it is absolutely imperative that you contact an expert criminal defense lawyer to resist any disposition that will result in your being deported from the United States.
Can My Civil Rights Be Restored in Florida?
If your civil rights were lost because of a felony conviction, you may be able to have them restored to you by applying for clemency from the Florida Commission on Offender Review. The requirements every applicant must meet to qualify for clemency include completing the designated waiting period after completing every term of their sentence, including full payment of all fines and fees.
If an otherwise eligible felon qualifies for restoration of their civil rights but has yet to pay off all legal financial obligations, they may apply and appear for a full hearing before the clemency board. No firearm rights will be restored without separate application and approval.
Civil rights will not be restored if the applicant has been convicted of another offense during the intervening waiting-period years. No sexual offenders or felons convicted of murder are eligible for restoration of civil rights, even if they were convicted in a state other than Florida.
Contact Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law to Avoid Felony Conviction Consequences
Attorneys Ben Stechschulte and Amy Nell hold the distinction of being among only 2% of all Florida lawyers board certified in their legal specialty, criminal defense law. When facing felony charges in Tampa or elsewhere in Hillsborough or Pinellas County, you need the best criminal defense lawyers to work on your behalf, to fight for your legal rights, and to use every legal means to protect you from the consequences of a felony conviction.
Call us today for a case review at (813)280-1244 .