Rules for Convicted Felons

By Cindy Hill

Being convicted of a felony criminal charge is a life-changing event. Aside from any potential prison sentence that the person with a felony conviction may serve, he must follow rules of probation or supervised release. After successful release from probation, a convicted felon must still follow the laws requiring him to reveal his conviction and face restrictions on housing, employment, education and other life opportunities. Certain felons such as sex offenders must also follow registration and community notification rules.

Probation and Supervised Release

A convicted felon on probation or supervised release will have to follow the rules set by the court and his probation or supervision officer for as long as his supervisory period lasts. These requirements are likely to include reporting regularly to his supervisory officer, submitting to blood and urine drug tests, submitting samples of DNA for identification banks, attending drug, alcohol or mental-health screening and counseling, working or attending school, and making any required payments for restitution, fines or court fees.

Applications

Applications for employment, housing, college admissions, educational funding, firearms purchases, and many other things will include questions about whether the applicant has been convicted of a felony. A convicted felon must answer the question truthfully or face potential charges for perjury--unless his conviction has been expunged or pardoned, in which case the law of the jurisdiction where the conviction occurred will dictate whether or not the conviction must be revealed.

Registration

Convicted sex offenders must register on sex-offender registries, and are often required to notify their town officials and neighbors of their places of work and residence. Registration information is publicly available and easily accessed on the Internet, so convicted sex offenders can expect to be confronted regarding their crimes.

Travel

In the United States, most convicted felons can obtain a passport. Felons on probation or supervised release will generally not be allowed to travel without their supervising officer's permission. After release from probation, whether or not they can travel to other countries is up to the rules of that country. Canada does not allow most felons to enter the country, although some persons convicted of driving while intoxicated can submit an application for an admission waiver. Many other countries prohibit entry by all convicted felons. The consulates of the destination country can provide information regarding that country's travel rules for convicted felons.

Civic Participation

Each state has different laws regarding whether a convicted felon may vote, hold office or sit on juries. A convicted felon should contact his state Secretary of State's office to determine what the rules are in his jurisdiction.

Restoration of Rights

State's rules vary as to whether and how a convicted felon may have his rights restored, or seek a pardon or expungement of his conviction. Some states do not ever allow a convicted felon to remove the conviction from his record; other states require an application after a period of time has elapsed; and others allow the conviction, or certain restrictions resulting from that conviction, to lapse automatically. The probation or supervised release office, or a defense attorney in that jurisdiction, can best advise the convicted felon how to follow these rules for removal of all or some of the negative effects of felony conviction.

About the Author

A freelance writer since 1978 and attorney since 1981, Cindy Hill has won awards for articles on organic agriculture and wild foods, and has published widely in the areas of law, public policy, local foods and gardening. She holds a B.A. in political science from State University of New York and a Master of Environmental Law and a J.D. from Vermont Law School.

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