Loss of rights due to felony conviction

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Loss of rights due to felony conviction takes many forms. In the United States this includes disenfranchisement, exclusion from Jury duty, and loss of the right to possess firearms.

United States[edit]

Disenfranchisement[edit]

In the USA, every state with the exception of Maine and Vermont prohibits felons from voting while in prison.[1] Nine other states disenfranchise felons for various lengths of time following the completion of their probation or parole. However, the severity of each state's disenfranchisement varies.

Three states, Kentucky, Virginia, and Florida (Gov. Rick Scott reverted to the old policy in 2010 that had been changed by Gov. Charlie Crist), continue to impose a lifelong denial of the right to vote to all citizens with a felony record, in the absence of a restoration of civil rights by the Governor or, where allowed, state legislature.[1] Florida law is somewhat unique, in that the individual must be pardoned by the Governor and a majority of the publicly elected State Cabinet (with the Governor's vote being the tiebreaker, if necessary).

Felon jury exclusion[edit]

The lifetime exclusion of felons from jury service is the majority rule in the U.S., used in thirty one states and in federal courts. The result is that over 6% of the adult population is excluded, including about 30% of black men,[2] creating a class of citizens defined and punished by the criminal justice system but unable to impact its function. Felon jury exclusion is less visible than felony disenfranchisement, and few socio-legal scholars have challenged the statutes that withhold a convicted felon’s opportunity to sit on a jury.[3] While constitutional challenges to felon jury exclusion almost always originate from interested litigants, some scholars contend that "it is the interests of the excluded felons that are most directly implicated."

Yet attacks on these blanket prohibitions levied by excluded felon jurors have failed consistently. The United States Supreme Court does not recognize the right to sit on a jury as fundamental.[4] It has been pointed out that, although lawmakers assert that felon jury exclusion measures protect the integrity of the adjudicative process, as felons “lack the requisite probity” to serve on a jury and are “inherently biased,” many of the states subscribing to this practice allow felons to practice law.[5] But that is a double-standard only if it is presumed that those who judge the arguments of both sides in a case are allowed to be as biased as those arguing for each side.

The U.S. Department of Justice has argued that felon jury exclusion laws do not discriminate against the disabled because there is no evidence that drug addicts as a class are convicted of felonies in any greater number than other classes of felons.[6]

Loss of right to possess firearms[edit]

Felons are regarded by the federal government, and most US states, as being "prohibited persons" under US law (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)). It is a class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. This has been litigated before the Supreme Court. However, the Court upheld the regulation.

In other countries[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States" (pdf). The Sentencing Project. September 2008. 
  2. ^ Kalt, Brian C. (October 2003), The Exclusion of Felons from Jury Service 53, American University Law Review 
  3. ^ Binnall, James Michael (March 20, 2010), A jury of none: an essay on the last acceptable form of civic banishment, Dialectical Anthropology, ISSN 0304-4092 
  4. ^ Binnall James M. (Fall 2009), Sixteen Million Angry Men, Virginia Journal of Social Policy & the Law 
  5. ^ Binnall, James (May 25, 2009), The Lawyer and the Juror: Critically Examining the Rationales for Felon Jury Exclusion 
  6. ^ http://www.justice.gov/crt/foia/lofc026.txt
  7. ^ Greenhouse, Linda (July 29, 2010). "Voting Behind Bars". The New York Times.