The Loss and Restoration of Florida Civil Rights

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In Florida, the loss of civil rights is typical following a felony charge. These rights include: the right to vote, the right to hold office, the right to sit on a jury, and the right to hold some occupational licenses. Unfortunately, these rights are generally permanently withheld until the successful completion of a lengthy clemency application, and the Governor and two Clemency Board Members grant the restoration of civil rights. Fortunately, the restoration of civil rights restores to an applicant all the rights of citizenship in the state of Florida that were enjoyed before the conviction, with the exception of the specific authority to own, posses, or use firearms. In addition, restoration will not remove certain obligations and restrictions placed upon sexual predators and sexual offenders. The following information, from the Florida Office of Executive Clemency website, will help you understand whether your civil rights have been lost and what steps you can take to restore these rights.

Reasons Why Florida Civil Rights Are Taken Away

You will likely have lost your civil rights in the state of Florida if any of the following apply: 1) you have a felony conviction in Florida and have not had your rights restored by the Governor and the Board of Executive Clemency, 2) you were convicted of a felony in another state while a resident of Florida 3) you were convicted of a felony in another state and did not have your rights restored in that state before moving to Florida. Keep in mind that in some states your rights are automatically restored or are never taken away.

Restoring Your Civil Rights in Florida

Felons seeking restoration of rights will be required to demonstrate that they desire and deserve clemency by applying only after they have shown they are willing to abide by the law. Restoration of civil rights will not be granted automatically for any offenses. Those wishing to restore their rights must submit a Restoration of Civil Rights Application accompanied by certified court documents for each felony conviction. Every application that meets the requirements may be referred to the Florida Parole Commission for an investigation, report and recommendation. Final determination for approval or denial will be made and reviewed on an individual basis by the Clemency Board. Upon review by the Clemency Board the restoration of civil rights cases are divided up into two categories: without a hearing and with a hearing. The distinction between the categories is based upon the seriousness of the offense. If the application meets the requirements, then the Clemency Board restores to an applicant all of the rights of citizenship in the State of Florida enjoyed before the felony conviction except the specific authority to own, possess, or use a firearm.

Minor Offenses May Not Require a Hearing

Less serious offenses are restored without a hearing. A candidate may have their civil rights restored by approval of the Clemency Board without a hearing if the candidate has: 1) been crime-free and arrest-free for five years after the completion of their sentences, 2) no outstanding detainers or pending criminal charges, 4) paid all restitution, 5) not been declared to be convicted of a crime determined to require a hearing, and 6) is a U.S. citizen and if convicted in a court other than a Florida court, is a legal resident of Florida.

If a candidate is granted restoration of civil rights without a hearing they will be sent a Certificate of Restoration of Civil Rights to the address on their application. If the approval is not granted, the candidate will be notified, and may elect to pursue restoration of civil rights with a hearing. If the candidate is still unsuccessful, the candidate may not apply again for at least two years from the date the denial decision was finalized.

Offenses That Require a Hearing

Applicants whose crimes are serious enough to require them to attend a hearing will be eligible when they have: 1) no new felony convictions for a period of seven years after the completion of their sentences, 2) paid all restitution, and 3) United States citizenship and if convicted in a court other than a Florida Court, is a legal resident of Florida. In addition, candidates are required to provide certified court documents for each felony conviction with the application.

If, based on the With a Hearing investigation, a candidate's application is granted by the Clemency Board an Executive Order will be prepared, signed by the Clemency Board members, and a copy will be mailed to the Candidate. If the candidate is unsuccessful, the candidate may not apply again for at least two years from the date the denial decision was finalized.

A list of felony convictions that are considered serious offenses and require a hearing are listed on the Florida Parole Commission's website. If you are only interested in restoring you Florida gun rights, you can easily determine if you are eligible by taking this free online eligibility test.

When determining whether to grant or deny the restoration of civil rights the Executive Clemency Board considers factors that prioritize public safety and the rehabilitation of criminal offenders. As such, the Clemency Board will consider factors like: the nature and circumstance of the offense, prior and subsequent criminal record, employment history, mental health, drug, alcohol and domestic violence issues, and letters in support or in opposition of granting executive clemency. To learn more about civil rights restoration in Florida, click here.