Articles Posted in Restoration of Civil Rights

Recently, I wrote about new House Bill 903, the Economic Redemption and Restoration of Constitutional Rights Act.  If passed, this law would authorize certain convicted felons to petition for constitutional or civil rights to be restored in the circuit court of the county in which the felon resides or in the county where the felon was convicted.  At that time, a class-action lawsuit, Hand v. Scott, was pending against Gov. Rick Scott, the Clemency Board, and six other state officials, including the Secretary of State and the Department of Corrections Head.  The lawsuit was filed by the Fair Elections Legal Network “FELN,” on behalf of nine former felons.

Supreme-Court-300x222According to the FELN, Florida is one of four states that denies the right to vote to all former felons until they petition for rights restoration, and 1.68 million Floridians currently do not have the right to vote due to a felony conviction (the highest state total in the nation).  Over 10,000 are waiting for a hearing on their restoration applications.  If no new applications were submitted, it would take the Clemency Board almost 51 years to hear the entire backlog of applicants.

As cited from a FELN press release:

gavelCivil Right Restoration in Florida currently takes decades for the state Board of Executive Clemency to process because they have 4 clemency hearings a year where the Governor and the Cabinet consider requests by fewer than 100 people at a time to restore their right to vote, run for office or own a gun.  See Miami Herald, “Thousands of Florida Felons Wait Decades to Regain the Right to Vote,” published July 13, 2017, by Steve Bousquet.  There are more than 20,000 clemency applications pending at the moment.  This has been a long-standing issue in the State of Florida and there are numerous options being considered.  One of these options is House Bill 903.

Rep. Cord Byrd, of Jacksonville Beach, has introduced House Bill 903, entitled the Economic Redemption and Restoration of Constitutional Rights Act.  If passed, this law would authorize certain convicted felons to petition for constitutional or civil rights to be restored in the circuit court of the county in which the felon resides or in the county where the felon was convicted.  The petition must contain the following:

  1. Documentation showing the conviction, the sentence imposed and served, and any release granted or other disposition of each case

firearmRestoring your gun rights can be a difficult process and you may have questions about how to start the process.  Be aware that the process takes a long time and the Clemency Board in charge of processing applications has a large backlog.  The sooner you contact a lawyer in Jacksonville, the better.

Can I restore my right to use firearms after a felony conviction in Florida?

Under the Rules of Executive Clemency, you may apply to the Clemency Board for the specific authority to own, possess, or use firearms that was lost as a result of a felony conviction. The Florida Clemency Board will not consider requests from those who were convicted in federal, military, or out-of-state courts.

In Jacksonville, and throughout the State of Florida, a bad decision that leads to a felony conviction can strip a person of his or her civil rights for life. Without a restoration of civil rights, a convicted felon cannot possess a firearm, serve on a jury, vote, hold public office, and more. Perhaps the most hurtful rights to have taken from a convicted felon are the rights to vote and bear arms. The Florida Constitution takes the right to vote as a result of a felony conviction, while Florida Statute 790.23 makes it illegal for a felon to possess a firearm and creates a three (3) year mandatory minimum sentence that must apply for those convicted of the offense. Although it is possible to have one’s civil rights restored, the number of convicted felons having their rights restored has dropped in recent years, according to News4Jax.com.

statue-of-liberty-2-1420901-m.jpgAutomatic restorations implemented by former Governor Charlie Crist were done away with soon after current Governor Rick Scott came into office in 2011. Since Scott took office, the number of civil rights restorations has dropped significantly. There have only been approximately 1200 since Governor Scott was elected to office, compared to more than 150,000 during Crist’s administration.

The Office of Executive Clemency is the Florida agency that oversees the restoration of civil rights for Florida convicted felons. There are similar, but slightly different procedures that exist, depending on the level of civil rights restored and the seriousness of the underlying offense; each requires an investigation into the applicant that wishes to have his or her civil rights restored.
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