“Upon conviction of a felony… the civil rights of the person convicted shall be suspended in Florida until such rights are restored by a full pardon, conditional pardon, or restoration of civil rights…”
With the world of trouble that comes with a felony conviction in Florida, including prison, fines, and probation, the prospect of losing your civil rights might seem like the least of your problems. But for those who have served their time and are ready to get on with their lives, the restoration of civil rights can be the last big hurdle to rejoining society as a productive citizen.
The civil rights you forfeit when convicted of a felony include the right to possess firearms, vote, serve on a jury, hold public office, or get licenses for specific occupations. Felony offenders in Florida can win these rights back – except the right to have or own a gun – by applying for a Restoration of Civil Rights with the Florida Clemency Board. Restoring your Florida gun rights involves a separate process.
Restoring the Right To Vote
In 2018, Florida voters passed Amendment 4, which automatically restores the right to vote for felons who have completed their sentences and paid their fines—except those convicted of murder or sexual offenses.
According to the Florida Division of Elections:
For any other felony conviction in Florida, a person is eligible to register and vote if the person has completed all terms of his or her sentence. Completion of the sentence means:
- Prison or jail time;
- Parole, probation, or other forms of supervision; and
- Payment of the total amount of all fines, fees, costs, and restitution ordered as part of the felony sentence.
However, while felons who have completed all the terms of release are automatically eligible to vote in theory, exercising that right can be extremely difficult and frustrating. That’s because there is no centralized, streamlined system to figure out who owes how much money to which courts. And the burden to prove you’ve jumped through all the hurdles is up to the offender.
So, even with the changes in the law, an offender may still be better off obtaining a Restoration of Civil Rights with the Florida Clemency Board. A restoration of civil rights attorney knows how to assert your rights on your behalf and knows how to work the government bureaucracy.
How Does a Felon Get Civil Rights Restored in Florida?
Restoration Without a Hearing
While Amendment 4 restores voting rights for felons, you still have to apply to the Clemency Board for a full restoration of civil rights – except for gun rights. But unless your felony involved murder or a sex crime, the Board will automatically approve your application without a hearing if you have completed your sentence and paid all of your fines. Until recently, there was a five-year waiting period before you could apply for restoration of civil rights, but the law has been changed so that you can apply as soon as all of the terms of your release have been completed.
Restoration with a Hearing
If you have felony convictions for murder or sexual offenses, you will have to apply for a hearing before the Florida Clemency Board. The application submission procedure is time-consuming, and there are no assurances that your rights will be restored, but your chances are good if you have completed all of the requirements. You will have to fill out a Clemency Application.
The clemency application must include:
(1) a certified copy of the charging instrument (indictment, information, or warrant with supporting
affidavit) for EACH felony conviction, felony charge for adjudication of guilt withheld, or misdemeanor
conviction if seeking a pardon for a misdemeanor.
(2) a certified copy of the judgment and sentence, which may include an order of community control or order of probation, for EACH felony conviction, felony charge for adjudication of guilt withheld, or misdemeanor conviction if seeking a pardon for a misdemeanor.
Certified court documents must be obtained from the clerk of court in the county where your criminal case was processed. If you have multiple convictions in different counties, you will need to contact each separate clerk of court to obtain the required court documents. Florida Statute 940.04 states that certified court documents required for clemency are to be provided by the applicable clerk of court free of charge and without delay. For out-of-state or federal convictions, contact the court where your criminal case was
Restoration of Civil Rights for a Felon Lawyer
The Orlando Civil Rights Restoration Attorneys at the Rivas Criminal Defense Law Firm can help with civil rights restoration. We will make sure your application is filled out correctly and will follow up with the Clemency Board to make sure your application is given proper consideration. We can help you collect the necessary documentation that you’ve met your legal and financial obligations, as well as character references and letters of support from employers, co-workers, people in the community, or clergy.
If you’re ready to move forward with a restoration of civil rights, call us at 407-644-2466 for a free, confidential consultation.