Part of the theory underlying incarceration systems is the punishment of convicts by depriving them of certain rights. They obviously lose the right to move freely in the general population during their prison term, but even after they are released from incarceration, their rights are restricted. Different states deal with the convicted felon rights issues differently; some giving them greater rights than others. The state of Indiana has its own set of in-prison and post-prison convict rights, some of them dependent on the type of criminal offense committed.
Rights Lost by Committing a Serious Felony
The rights a person loses when they are convicted of a felony vary among states. The forfeited rights range from the right to vote to the right to work in certain occupations, depending on the state of residence. Some of these rights can be restored to the individual over time, but some are never restored.
Depending on state law, felons can lose these rights: the right to vote, to travel to certain foreign countries, to own a gun, to carry a gun, to serve on a jury, to work in certain occupations, to win custody or visitation privileges with their children, and the right to receive public social benefits and public housing.
Laws Regarding Indiana Felony Charges and Firearms
Both federal and Indiana state laws restrict a felon's right to gun access. Under federal law – the Gun Control Act – all felons are forbidden from shipping, possessing or receiving any firearm or ammunition unless their federal firearm rights have been restored. The law actually states that this restriction applies to anyone convicted of a serious crime punishable by a year or more of jail time. Since, in Indiana, criminal charges punishable by a year or more in prison are, by definition, felonies, the federal law applies only to felony convictions in Indiana.
It is also illegal under Indiana criminal law for a "serious violent felon" to possess any type of firearm, defined as any weapon capable of, designed to, or readily convertible to "expel a projectile by means of explosion." The term "serious violent felony" includes murder, felony battery, a variety of sex crimes, robbery and certain drug offenses.
The prohibition on possessing a gun applies also to anyone convicted of a domestic battery, whether a misdemeanor or a felony conviction. Note that if an individual is not eligible to possess a firearm under either federal or Indiana gun laws, that person is not eligible to receive a concealed carry license in Indiana.
Firearm Rights Restoration in Indiana
Indiana law offers certain convicts deprived of their gun rights a variety of ways to have those rights restored. Those individuals convicted of domestic violence misdemeanor crimes in Indiana are eligible to apply to the court to have their firearm rights restored. Although this restoration right does not apply to felons, they can apply for expungement of their crimes. If successful, expungement can result in firearm rights restoration to felons in Indiana.
Felony Convictions and Voting
There is a lot of attention focused these days on felony disenfranchisement. Can convicted felons vote? Their voting rights depend on the laws of the state of their residence. In some states, convicted felons retain the right to vote. In other states, they lose the right to vote forever unless pardoned by the state governor. And in yet other states, they lose the right to vote while they are serving their sentence, but when they are released, their right to vote is restored.
In Indiana, convicted felons lose the right to vote during the time they are serving their sentences. Once they complete their term of incarceration and are released from prison, felons in Indiana regain the right to vote. They are permitted to vote even if they are on parole or probation. The law specifies that they are eligible if they are not currently serving a sentence for a felony conviction. While felons are not obligated to apply for a pardon to vote, they do have to register to vote.
Indiana Laws About Felons and SNAP
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides financial aid to supplement the food budget of needy families so they can purchase healthy food and move towards self-sufficiency. Up until very recently, anyone convicted of a drug-related felony in Indiana lost their right to benefit from this programs, as well as to receive temporary aid for needy families (TANF).
However, effective in 2020, the state passed a law that allows those with a drug-related felony conviction to be considered for eligibility for SNAP in certain circumstances. They must have successfully completed probation, parole, community corrections, a reentry court program, or any other post-conviction monitoring program ordered by the court. They must also be in compliance with their conditions of probation, parole or community corrections.
Employment and Criminal Convictions
Many states limit the ability of an employer to ask a job applicant about criminal convictions. This can help a convicted felon who has completed their sentence to find employment, an essential part of rejoining society. Indiana does not do this. In fact, the state allows employers to ask a job applicant about any criminal convictions and also to conduct background checks.
An employer is permitted to consider an applicant's criminal record when making hiring decisions. This makes it extremely difficult for ex-felons to find work.
Restrictions on Professional Licenses
Indiana law also restricts licensing for many professions in a way that makes it difficult or impossible for felons to practice these professions. The types of professions affected include nursing, being a real estate agent, working as a mortgage broker, holding any public office, working in education or as a teacher, selling insurance, being a hair dresser, caring for children and working as an attorney. A felon convicted of an offense involving fraud, deceit or misrepresentation cannot be employed by any financial institution.
Some jobs require driving as one of the responsibilities, which can also be a problem for felons who were convicted of crimes committed while using a vehicle and violations of controlled substance codes. In Indiana, they lose their licenses for a set period of time.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.