Restoring Civil Rights in Florida

If you’re convicted of a felony in Florida, you will be stripped of your “civil rights,” which guarantee that you have equal social opportunities, and that you’re afforded the same protections under U.S. law as everyone else living in the country legally. What types of civil rights are taken away after one is found guilty of a felony in a court of law? Examples of the civil rights taken away include the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury, the right to run for office, and the right to bear arms.

“But why are my civil rights important?” Because, they exemplify your rights as a U.S. citizen. They are an essential aspect of democracy, and they are critical to playing a role in our political society. They are also essential to protecting your home, your property, and more importantly, your family against intruders and in today’s day and age, active shooters.

When someone is convicted of a felony in Florida, he or she must apply for Restoration of Civil Rights (RCR), which is considered a form of “clemency.” Clemency is defined as “mercy or lenience,” so when a convicted felon is petitioning to have their civil rights restored, or if they’re trying to obtain permission to own firearms again, an approval for such a request is viewed as an act of clemency by the Florida courts.

Can My Civil Rights Be Restored?

If you were convicted of a felony and you wish to apply for Restoration of Civil Rights, a pardon, firearm authority, or another form of clemency, you will need to fill out an application, which will be reviewed by the Office of Executive Clemency. Your application and the relevant court documents will be screened by an examiner to see if the required timeframe has been met for your particular offense or offenses.

Clemency cases are handled on a first-serve basis and will be processed in that order. If after reviewing your case, the Office of Executive Clemency decides that you do not meet the legal requirements, you will be informed as to the reasons for the denial and you’ll be guided toward the next step.

On the other hand, if your application is granted, you will be mailed a certificate of Restoration of Civil Rights. Remember, if you’ve been convicted of a felony in Florida, you cannot vote in any election, you can’t serve on a jury, nor can you hold public office until the state has restored your civil rights.

The Executive Clemency Board Investigation

There are two categories of Restoration of Civil Rights cases: 1) those that do not involve a hearing, and 2) those that do involve a hearing. The Restoration of Civil Rights cases that do not involve a hearing are reserved for less-serious offenses. The cases without a hearing require that the defendant be crime and arrest-free for five years before they can be reviewed by the Florida Commission on Offender Review (FCOR).

In contrast, the Restoration of Civil Rights cases requiring a hearing are for felons who were convicted of serious offenses. For felons convicted of more serious offenses, seven years must have passed since they completed all sentences and court-required sentence conditions. Additionally, with the application, the felon must submit certified court documents for each of their felony convictions.

While the Executive Clemency Board is investigating the felon, the Board will consider a number of factors, such as:

  • The nature of the offense and any mitigating or aggravating factors,
  • The felon’s criminal history, including traffic offenses,
  • The felon’s employment record,
  • Any history of substance abuse,
  • Any history of domestic violence,
  • Any history of mental illness, and
  • Any letters submitted that support or oppose the felon’s clemency application.

Note: The rules for firearm authority are different than above. A felon must have completed all sentences imposed and supervision conditions for a minimum of eight years.The felon cannot have any pending charges, owe restitution, or have any financial penalties that amount to or exceed $1,000 from a criminal conviction or a traffic infraction.

To learn more about restoring your civil rights or obtaining firearm authority in Tampa or Hillsborough County, contact Thomas & Paulk, P.A. for a free case review.