Civil Disabilities of the Convicted Felon
In Florida, a felony conviction means the loss of civil rights, including the right to vote, hold public office, serve on a jury, possess a firearm or concealed weapon, and the right to be employed within certain occupations. These restrictions continue to exist following release from jail, state prison or probationary sentence.
While Doors lead singer Jim Morrison was posthumously pardoned by Governor Charlie Crist and the Florida Clemency Board on indecency charges, a request by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for an executive order granting restoration of civil rights for citizens convicted of non-violent felony offenses fell on deaf ears.
The civil rights of a convicted felon are stripped until successfully restored through a lengthy clemency process. Following completion of a state prison or probationary sentence, the Department of Corrections automatically submits an electronic application to the Parole Commission for those convicted in a Florida state court.
An amendment to Florida’s civil rights restoration procedure provides individuals convicted of non-violent felonies and released after 2007 an automatic restoration of civil rights. Offenders released before 2007 or those convicted of violent crimes are required to make an application to the clemency board. Critics argue that the amendment does not go far enough and that an executive order should be signed granting blanket restoration.
Automatic restoration of civil rights is made pursuant to the Rules of Executive Clemency for individuals convicted of less serious and minor felonies. As a Level I offender, a convicted felon has completed their jail or prison sentence and/or probation, paid restitution, and has no pending charges or detainers. Upon verification of all Level I requirements, the application is submitted to the Executive Clemency Board for approval.
For individuals convicted of more serious felony offenses, with the exception of murder and sex crimes, a more stringent process is followed. While some Level II offenders may obtain a restoration of civil rights without a hearing, most do not. In addition to the Level I requirements, the more serious offender must also undergo a mid-level investigation by the Florida Parole Commission.
Upon passing the mid-level investigation, the Level II offender application is provided to the Executive Clemency Board on a 30-day review. If the Governor and two members of the Clemency Board approve the application, a certificate of restoration of civil rights is issued. If the application is denied, a full investigation and hearing will be conducted.
For individuals convicted of a felony offense in another state, applicable laws should be reviewed. Although some states automatically restore civil rights upon completion of a jail, prison and/or probationary sentence, a few never revoke citizenship rights. If civil rights were restored prior to becoming a Florida resident, an application to the Office of Executive Clemency is not required.
For individuals convicted of a felony offense who served a county jail sentence, the automatic submission rules of the Florida Department of Corrections are not applicable. The former offender should submit an application to the Office of Executive Clemency for restoration of civil rights.
For individuals convicted of a felony offense in a federal or military court, the automatic submission rules of the Florida Department of Corrections are also not applicable. The former offender should submit an application to the Office of Executive Clemency. Unlike rules that allow a convicted state felon to apply for restoration of firearms privileges following the expiration of sentence and passage of eight years, a federal or military offender is forever barred from possessing a firearm under federal law.
For individuals who plead guilty or no contest to a state felony and have had adjudication of guilt withheld, a restoration of civil rights is not required. Although not considered a “convicted felon” in Florida, an offender is prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms for three years following release from supervision under the rules of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Firearms Purchase Program.
To start the restoration of civil rights process, an online application should be submitted at http://www.fpc.state.fl.us. By clicking on the “clemency” tab, an individual can also determine whether civil rights lost due to a prior felony conviction have been restored and print a certificate for their records. For more information, contact the Office of Executive Clemency at (850) 488-2952.