Rights of a Convicted Felon in Missouri

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Felonies are the most serious category of crimes. Those convicted of a felony in Missouri can be sentenced to prison and/or be required to pay criminal fines. But in addition to these penalties, convicted felons in Missouri will lose some of the civil rights enjoyed by others. Some of these rights are reinstated after they serve their sentences, but other rights may be revoked forever.

Felonies Under Missouri Law

Most states separate criminal offenses into two main categories, misdemeanors and felonies. Felonies are considered the more serious crimes and carry the potential for longer terms of imprisonment.

The general cutoff between the two depends on the type of punishment that results from conviction of the crime. When a conviction can be punished by no more than a year in county jail, it is generally a misdemeanor; if it can be punished by more than a year in state prison, it is a felony.

This is the system used in Missouri. A convicted felon in the state can be sentenced to more than a year in prison, while someone convicted of a misdemeanor faces a potential maximum punishment of a year in county jail.

Categories of Felony Charges

Not all felonies are treated equally in Missouri. The state categorizes serious crimes into five classes of felonies. The most serious are termed Class A felonies, while Class E felonies are the least serious. Any felony conviction can, however, carry loss of civic rights.

Missouri Voting Rights

Voting is a very basic right of all American citizens. The right to vote involves helping to select the way the state and country will be governed. An individual can generally vote in Missouri if they are:

  • At least 18 years old.
  • United States citizen.
  • Missouri resident.

However, the minute that an individual is convicted of a felony crime in Missouri, they immediately lose their voting rights. They can no longer vote in any election in Missouri. This suspension of voting rights lasts the entire time that they are in prison and continues during any probation period or parole period.

Restoration of Voting Rights

The convicted felon receives automatic restoration of their voting rights when their entire prison sentence is completed, probation and parole included. However, if the felony of which they were convicted is related to voting or to an election, they will never get their voting rights restored unless they are pardoned.

This is also true for those convicted of an election-related misdemeanor. They lose their voting rights in Missouri and are permanently disenfranchised unless they receive a pardon.

Missouri Right to Hold Public Office

Convicted felons in Missouri also lose the right to run for or hold public office. That means that if someone running for office in Missouri is convicted of a felony, they will be ineligible to serve. This is also true of those appointed to office who cannot serve after conviction.

However, like the right to vote, the right to hold public office is restored to felons once they have finished serving their prison time. This includes probation, parole and even payment of fines that were part of the sentence. If the crime was connected to an election or the voting process, the disqualification in Missouri will be permanent, however.

Missouri Right to Serve on Jury

While many people would rather not get called to serve for jury duty, not wanting to is different from being excluded. Those convicted of felonies in Missouri are permanently barred from serving on a jury. This includes serving both as a petit juror or a grand juror. A felony offender can have this permanent bar lifted only if they receive a pardon.

Missouri Right to Own Firearms

An individual who is convicted of a felony offense in the state of Missouri also loses rights involving their right to keep and bear arms. In fact, it is illegal for anyone to possess a firearm, including concealed handguns, shotguns or rifles if they have been convicted of a Missouri felony, or a crime in another state that would be a felony in Missouri. This is set out in Missouri Rev. Statutes Section 571.070.1(1).

There is an exception in the state law for ownership or possession of antique weapons. Both a pardon and an expungement of records under Missouri Rev. Statutes Section 610.140 can restore the individual's firearms privileges. A pardon restores a felon's firearms privileges across the board.

Until 2008, the law permitted convicted felons to possess rifles and shotguns for hunting purposes once their sentences, including probation and parole, were finished. However, a law was passed that year making it illegal for felons to own or possess firearms even for hunting. A convicted felon who has completed their sentence may, however, own and operate bows and arrows for the purpose of hunting.

Other Rights Lost to Felons

When felons finish serving their time, they continue to encounter many challenges to reintegrating in society. Since an employment background check reveals their conviction, they often have trouble getting jobs. In addition, felons can lose a professional license or permit that they had held before they were incarcerated.

For example, anyone with a felony DWI or DUI in Missouri will not be able to get employment in professions like teaching, nursing or as a truck driver. A convicted felon in Missouri is also barred from working for the police force. That includes any branch of law enforcement including highway patrol work. Any other position that requires a CDL license, like a firefighter, is also excluded.

And that is just the beginning. Ex-felons may also have trouble:

  • Securing housing.
  • Getting food stamps if the felony was drug-related.
  • Getting cash welfare benefits.
  • Getting loans or other financial aid for college.
  • Traveling outside of the U.S. since some countries deny convicted felons the right to enter.

Expungement in Missouri

Expungement is the sealing of the record of a crime. It assists those with convictions to be able to move forward in life.

However, for many decades, the only crimes that could be expunged in Missouri were 13 different misdemeanor offenses including passing bad checks, private peace disturbance, gambling and being drunk in church. That means that felons could never move beyond their conviction unless they were pardoned.

The 2018 Missouri Expungement Law created a process that expands expungement eligibility to some 1,900 eligible offenses. Those with misdemeanor convictions who are eligible can file petitions after three years; ex-felons must wait seven years. After a successful petition, the individuals can answer “no” to inquiries about whether they have a criminal record.