If you're a young ex-felon newly released from incarceration, or an older felon who has long ago paid your debt to society, you may be wondering about having some of your civil rights restored. There is hope not only on the horizon, but also in newly-written laws that are bringing about changes in many state and federal rules.
Here's are 3 things you need to know about restoring your civil rights as an ex-felon:
1) Rights restoration hinges on what you did and where you did it.
If you committed a felony against a state, that state also has the discretion to take away your right to vote, to own a firearm, to serve on a jury, or to run for public office.
The rules vary from state to state. Knowing the rules in your particular location is the first step toward having your rights restored.
If you have a federal felony conviction, a different set of rights is lost, including the right to do business with the government for a period of time.
After conviction of any drug crime, sex crime or of some violent crimes, additional rights can be lost for a lifetime. These lost rights can include the right to receive federal tuition grants or nutrition assistance ( food stamp program). But the laws are changing, as states realize that ex-felons need help to get their lives going in a positive direction.
2) Sometimes your civil rights are handed back; sometimes you must go after them.
For example, in two states, your right to vote is never lost, and you can vote by absentee ballot from prison. In other states, you face losing the right to vote forever.
Once you've served your sentence, your right to vote may automatically be reinstated in your particular state, but in other states, you will have to petition the state to allow you to vote again. Voting laws, too, are changing for ex-felons in many states. In Wyoming, for example, the requirements necessary to have ex-felons' voting rights restored will be streamlined or eliminated.
While federal law prohibits convicted felons from owning guns, your state determines if and how you get back the right to own a firearm as an ex-felon. The crime or crimes you committed are also a factor in restoring your gun rights.
Sometimes the state automatically reinstates your 2nd amendment rights, while in most cases, you will have to petition the state or federal government to have the right to own a firearm again. In some states, you'll have to have your record expunged to regain this right.
3) Even a presidential pardon will not restore all rights automatically.
The possibility of your receiving a state pardon from your governor will, of course, depend on procedure where you live.
For a federal pardon, you must wait five years - and keep your nose clean - before you can petition the US Department of Justice for relief.
Even after a presidential pardon, your state must still restore some of your rights, and you must disclose your prior felony conviction where necessary.
A competent criminal defense attorney is the best person to help you sort through the maze of rights restoration policies. They will know which agencies to contact and which forms to submit. As laws change, they will keep you informed. Criminal defense lawyers are an ex-felon's best resource when trying to have your civil rights returned to you.
If you want more help or clarification, contact a company like The Law Office of Gregory J. Hermiller, LLC doctor to learn more.