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Criminal procedure

felon rights

Felon rights are generally the rights a person may lose upon conviction for a felony criminal offense—often voting rights and the ability to own or possess a firearm. These laws that limit the rights of felons—referred to by some as felon disenfranchisement—vary from state to state.

For example, some states (Maine, Vermont) allow felons to vote while they are incarcerated. In other states felons lose the right to vote while they are incarcerated, but the right to vote is automatically restored upon release from jail or prison. In some states felons lose the right to vote while they are incarcerated and for some period following their release from jail or prison—often while they are on parole or probation—and the right is automatically restored upon completion of parole or probation and the payment of any fines and fees. And in some states felons lose their voting rights indefinitely for some crimes; or require a pardon from the governor for voting rights to be restored; or face an additional waiting period after completion of their sentence and parole or probation; or require some additional action before voting rights are restored.

And federal law—specifically, the Gun Control Act beginning at 18 U.S.C. §921—prohibits anyone convicted of a crime that is punishable by imprisonment for more than one year (generally a felony offense); or of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence; or who is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or the child of such an intimate partner or person, or from engaging in other conduct that would place an intimate partner in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the partner or child—from possessing, shipping, transporting, or receiving any firearm or ammunition in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce. See 18 U.S.C. §922(g).

A misdemeanor crime of domestic violence is generally a crime that is a misdemeanor under federal, state, or tribal law and that has, as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon, committed by a current or former spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim; by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common; by a person who is cohabiting with or has cohabited with the victim as a spouse, parent, or guardian; or by a person similarly situated to a spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim. See 18 U.S.C. §921(a)(33).

But any conviction within the scope of 18 U.S.C. §922(g) that has been expunged, or set aside, or for which a person has been pardoned or has had civil rights restored will not be considered a conviction for purposes of this statute prohibiting possession, shipping, transporting, or receiving firearms—unless such pardon, expungement, or restoration of civil rights expressly provides that the person may not ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms. See 18 U.S.C. §921(a)(20); Beecham v. United States, 511 U.S. 368 (1994); United States v. Ramos, 961 F.2d 1003, 1009 (1st Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 934 (1992).

In Texas, individuals convicted of a felony lose certain rights, including the right to vote and the right to possess firearms. Felons in Texas are disenfranchised while incarcerated, on parole, or on probation. Voting rights are automatically restored after they complete their sentence, including parole or probation, and pay any fines and fees. However, they must re-register to vote. Regarding firearm possession, under federal law, specifically the Gun Control Act (18 U.S.C. §921 and §922(g)), felons are prohibited from possessing firearms. This federal prohibition also applies to individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses or those under certain restraining orders. A conviction that has been expunged, set aside, pardoned, or for which civil rights have been restored may not count as a conviction under this statute, unless the restoration of rights explicitly states that the individual may not possess firearms. It's important for individuals with felony convictions in Texas to understand these restrictions and the process for restoring their rights where applicable.

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