The punishment of a felon lasts long beyond the jail sentence or the parole. Felons lose many rights upon release, sometimes permanently. The laws on which rights are deprived depends on the state that the felony was committed. Additionally, there are some federal programs that you may not be able to access after a felony conviction.
The idea of reduced rights for felons after release is an ancient idea going back to Roman times. But just which rights are removed and which rights can be restored can vary. Here are some of the things that you may lose access to after a felony conviction. This is not a comprehensive list.
Right to Bear Arms
Most states remove your right to bear arms or severely restrict it after a felony conviction. Part of the background check done when buying a weapon involves checking for felony convictions. Even possessing a gun given as a gift can land you into more legal trouble.
Right to Vote
Felony disenfranchisement is the legal term for losing the right to vote after you’ve been convicted of a felony. Nearly every state will remove your voting rights, though some will allow you to vote from jail or even refuse to remove this right. This is a major battleground in prison civil rights because five million Americans are denied the right to vote because of these laws.
Right to Travel Abroad
While it is legal for felons to own and use a passport, many countries will refuse visas to felons. It is wise to research the current laws before attempting to travel abroad as a felon to avoid legal trouble in another country.
Other Political Rights
You may also lose access to other rights to participate in the political process. For instance, you may be removed from jury duty pools because of your past as a felon. Local and state laws may also forbid felons from running for political office.
If you have a felony on your record, it will be much more difficult to defend your parental rights, especially custody rights. The courts take a dim view of a felon’s ability to raise a child, especially if the felony is due to a violent crime or a sex crime.
Loss of Benefit Programs
Felons also lose the right to certain government programs meant for assistance. You may be ineligible for grant programs, public housing, food stamps, SSI, and a host of other programs.
It is not illegal for most employers to refuse to hire a felon, though they cannot deny you the opportunity to apply. This is another major battleground for the civil rights of felons because it makes it much harder to integrate back into society. However, there are some positions where it is legal to discriminate directly against felons. These include teachers, the armed services, and law enforcement.
Unfortunately, moving to another state will not help you restore these rights. States are required to honor the laws of other states under the Constitution. However, if you are a felon, your state may have procedures to expunge or seal your felony conviction and restore some of these rights. Our lawyers can help you research these laws and explain the process.