What Are the Rights of a Convicted Felon?

By Amy S. Jorgensen

The average person knows people who commit crimes are punished by being forced to spend time in jail. However, convicted felons lose more than this type of freedom as part of their punishment. In some states, they can permanently lose rights, such as the right to vote or to own a gun. Below is a list of some of the rights felons no longer have, at least in some states, following their conviction, as well as at least one of the rights they maintain.

Felons and Voting Rights

In the majority of states, a convicted felon loses his right to vote while incarcerated. However, 14 states permanently remove a felon's right to vote. A few states do not choose either of these options. They permit convicted felons to vote even from prison via absentee ballots. While the permanent dissolution of voting rights for felons may seem unconstitutional, the Supreme Court did uphold this disenfranchisement in the 1970s.

Felons and Public Office

In half of the states, a felon is able to run for public office after successfully completing the punishment for his crime. In other states, he may retain this right but not if found guilty of certain crimes. The term "public office" does not just refer to elected offices, such as mayor. The term has been defined very broadly to include any position that might involve the public interest, even those in which the person is appointed to office. Even at the Federal level, felons who are convicted of some crimes may not be able to hold certain posts in the government.

Felons and Offender Registration

In a growing number of states, some felons are also losing their right to privacy following their conviction for specific crimes, such as sex offenses, including statutory rape. Upon release from prison, these felons must register through a site that is available for public viewing. The information provides the community with the location and sometimes other personal information about the felon. This trend is now widening in many states to encompass all felons.

Felons and Judicial Rights

The term judicial rights refers to rights specifically pertaining to the legal system. One of these rights is the ability to testify in a court. Most states allow convicted felons to testify and to consider their testimony. The only exception is usually felons who have been previously convicted of perjury. However, most of these states do allow the lawyers to examine the felon about criminal background. Another example of these rights is the right to serve on a jury. In 30 states, convicted felons lose the right to be jurists.

Felons and Citizenship

Although the right to vote and to participate in due process may seem essential to citizenship, the right to citizenship is one right the courts have not been able to take away from convicted felons. Even felons who are convicted of serious federal crimes, such as desertion from the army, cannot be denied their citizenship to the United States. The Supreme Court supported this idea in several of their rulings, including Trop v. Dulles in 1958 after a portion of the Nationality Act of 1940 was overturned as unconstitutional because it stripped Army deserters of their citizenship.

About the Author

Amy Jorgensen has ghostwritten more than 100 articles and books on raising and training animals. She is also an amateur dog trainer. She has also written more than 200 blog posts, articles, and ebooks on wedding and party planning on behalf of professionals in the field.

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