Being convicted of a crime, especially a felony crime, is a scary and uncertain moment in life. But when it comes down to the punishment, what rights do felons lose? And what rights do you lose for other types of criminal convictions?
Today in the Findley & Rogers criminal rights blog, our legal team is looking at 8 rights that could disappear with your conviction.
What Rights do Felons Lose?
1. The Right to Your Freedom
What rights do felons lose? Well, the most prominent is the right not to be behind bars. A prison sentence isn’t guaranteed after a conviction, especially for misdemeanor convictions, but it is, of course, the most notorious of all criminal penalties.
Generally speaking, if you’re convicted of a felony, you should expect to do some time. If you’re lucky, it’ll just be a short stint in the county jail, rather than a long term sentence in the state penitentiary. In addition, some crimes have mandatory minimum prison sentences which increase for people with a higher offender score (a way of taking previous criminal convictions into account when determining the sentences for new convictions).
2. The Right to Lawfully State That You Were Never Convicted of a Felony
What rights do felons lose? If your conviction is for a felony, then you lose the right to state that you have never been convicted of a felony. This probably sounds obvious, but it has a serious consequence: Employment applications, housing applications, and credit applications frequently ask this question, and in many cases, a felony conviction is grounds for disqualification. Having that conviction on your record makes life a lot harder. What rights do felons lose after a conviction? Sadly, the answer is often “the right to a decent job and house.”
Fortunately, if you were convicted of a felony in the past, you may be eligible to vacate (i.e., “expunge”) that conviction which would allow you to once again lawfully claim that you’ve never been convicted. If you’re wondering how you can get your felony expunged, Findley & Rogers can help you expunge your criminal record.
3. The Right to Vote
The Washington State Constitution specifies that anyone convicted of an “infamous crime” (i.e., a felony) will lose their right to vote in all elections.
When it comes to the question “What rights do felons lose?” this is an active area for criminal rights advocates, and in our state, the right to vote is one of the easier lost rights to regain. In fact, in 2009, the state restored the voting rights of most convicted felons who weren’t currently in state custody.
The right to vote is also one of the few instances where, if there is a fine involved in restoring your right, you can petition the court to waive it on the grounds of economic hardship.
4. The Right to Drive a Motor Vehicle
If you’re convicted of a vehicle offense or a DUI, it’s pretty much a given that you’re going to lose your driver’s license, and thus your right to drive an automobile.
However, there are several other ways to lose your right to drive as well. These mainly have to do with unpaid fines, such as unpaid traffic tickets, unpaid child support, and unpaid student loans.
This is another area of interest for criminal rights advocates because losing one’s driver’s license for something like a traffic ticket has a way of becoming an economic trap, as it often prevents that person from being able to get to their job.
5. The Right to Possess a Firearm
What rights do felons lose after a conviction? Firearm rights. In fact, you can lose your right to possess a firearm for many different kinds of convictions, including all felonies, many violent crimes, and many domestic violence crimes.
It is not possible to restore firearm rights for all convictions, but for most cases, gun rights restoration is possible — it’s also one of our main areas of legal practice as gun rights attorneys here at Findley & Rogers.
6. The Right to Serve on a Jury
What rights do felons lose? One of the highest honors of citizenship — your right to serve on a jury.
Most people probably wouldn’t complain about losing this right, especially if it was a jury that convicted them. Nevertheless, jury duty is an important civic responsibility, and it’s a shame to lose a right that is so symbolic of our democratic system of law and governance.
7. The Right to Hold Elected Public Office
What rights do felons lose? You can’t be voted in as dogcatcher! As with jury duty, if you lose your right to vote, you will also lose your right to hold elected public office. This includes much more than just the state government in Olympia. You also lose your right to hold any elected office in any school district, any municipal corporation, and any local or county government.
The process for restoring this right is the same as the process for restoring your right to serve on a jury.
8. The Right to Welfare Benefits While in Prison
What rights do felons lose? Well, generally speaking, they don’t lose welfare rights. Thanks to the efforts of criminal rights advocates, Washington is fairly lenient when it comes to welfare benefits for people convicted of a crime. A criminal conviction typically will not affect your eligibility for welfare benefits such as disability insurance, food stamps, and so forth.
However, you won’t receive these benefits for the time that you’re actually in prison. This makes sense since you already receive housing, food, and healthcare while in prison; but when you get out, don’t expect the benefits to have accumulated while you were gone.
Let Findley & Rogers Help You
If you’ve already served your conviction and are looking for a way to get your life back on track, Findley & Rogers can help. We believe that once you’ve paid back your debt to society, there’s no reason your life should continue to be burdened by your past mistakes.
Contact Findley & Rogers today for a free consultation to discuss your situation. We’ll be happy to explain things in more detail and to answer your questions about criminal rights and what it will take to get your life back.