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.
Automatic 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.
For non-violent offenses, a person convicted of a felony in Florida can have his or her rights restored without the need of a hearing, as long as he or she has walked the straight and narrow for five (5) full years after completing whatever sentence or period of supervision was associated with the non-violent felony conviction. In that five (5) year period, the applicant must have been crime and arrest-free. More serious felonies will require a hearing before the board and seven (7) years without any convictions or arrests.
While the agency does not limit its inquiry when deciding whether to grant a restoration of civil rights, the agency will look primarily at the facts and circumstances surrounding the offense, any letters submitted for review that are in favor or against the restoration, whether there are instances of domestic violence at issue, the applicant’s mental health and drug dependency issues, employment history, and the applicant’s criminal history existing before and after the offense that resulted in a loss of civil rights. The more positive information available to the board, the better the chance of being approved for civil rights restoration.
The restoration of firearm authority requires a convicted felon’s slate to remain clean for eight (8) years after completing any sentence or condition of supervision. There can be no depending charges, detainers, or money owed related to any criminal offense or traffic violation. An in-depth interview with an examiner from the Florida Commission on Offender Review (formerly Florida Parole Commission) is also required.
A pardon with or without firearm authority is the form of clemency that has the most stringent requirements. It includes all of the above requires, but there must be ten (10) full years of no arrest, no, conviction, detainers, or pending charges.
If your request for clemency is denied, you must wait two (2) years from the time the decision is finalized before you can reapply.
Florida law leaves a person convicted of a felony in one of its courts with a lifetime of sub par citizen status, unless you decide to do something about it. Hiring a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney can assist you in your efforts to regain your civil rights and your gun rights. At the Law Office of David M. Goldman PLLC, our criminal defense attorney, Markus A. Sermons, is available for free consultations. Call our office today at (904) 685-1200.