When a person is convicted of a felony crime, they will face severe consequences. In addition to incarceration and steep fines, a convicted felon loses rights that most people take for granted. Because felony crimes are considered the most serious offenses in the American judicial system, punishment by incarceration is not believed to be a sufficiently stern deterrent. By denying convicted felons certain rights, law enforcement officials hope to set an example that will prevent future crimes.
The Origin of Denied Rights
The use of harsher punishments for serious crimes has been a part of common law legal systems for hundreds of years. In fact, this practice has roots in the legal systems of England during the Middle Ages. Denying certain rights to individuals who were found guilty of serious crimes served as a warning to others who might be tempted to break the law. The modern interpretation of felony offenses defines a “felony” as a crime punishable by more than a year of incarceration.
Types of Denied Rights
The rights that convicted felons lose are not removed arbitrarily. The removal is designed to prevent felons from taking part in some of the freedoms enjoyed by the general population. Both the states and the federal government have penalties for felony offenses. However, not all states have the same guidelines for punishing felony convictions. Some of the rights denied to convicted felons include:
- The right to vote
- The right to travel to foreign countries
- The right to receive federal assistance or reside in government-subsidized housing
- The right to bear arms
Nearly all states have laws that prevent incarcerated felons from voting while they are serving their prison terms. Many states also deny paroled felons voting rights. In some cases, a state will allow a convicted felon to regain voting rights after a period of time. However, some states remove voting rights from felons permanently.
Contrary to popular belief, it is possible for convicted felons to obtain a passport. This is because a passport is a valid form of identification and does not guarantee the right to travel. Many countries have severe restrictions in place regarding individuals with criminal histories traveling across their borders. In this way, felons are denied entry to many foreign destinations.
Losing the right to receive government assistance is a particularly harsh punishment for convicted felons. Many of them will face difficulty when trying to obtain employment after they are paroled because they must report their felony convictions on job applications. Also, convicted felons are banned from owning firearms in almost all jurisdictions. In fact, many states stipulate that convicted felons are not even allowed to be within a certain distance of a firearm.
To learn more about the rights of criminal defendants, consult with The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp at 713-868-6100.