The word “felon” is often tossed around when talking about convicted criminals and the American prison complex. However, being convicted of a felony charge means so much more than many people may realize. Not only do you have to face a lengthy prison charge, but when you are finally released, your ability to live an average life will be greatly impacted by the loss of rights that all people convicted of a felony experience.
What Is a Felony?
Typically, when you are charged with a crime, it will either be a misdemeanor or a felony. These key difference between these charges is the seriousness of the crime. Misdemeanors are often charged with lighter crimes, such as petty theft, whereas felony charges can be reserved for violent or sexual crimes.
Some crimes are also considered “wobblers.” This means they can either be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances around the crime committed. For example, the distribution of a controlled substance could be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the quantity of drugs involved in the case, whether it involved a violent crime, and if state lines were crossed.
Generally speaking, the actual definition of a felony is a crime that results in imprisonment for a year or longer. There are many crimes that fall under the felony umbrella, including robbery, arson, murder, manslaughter, and kidnapping. All of these are considered incredibly serious crimes, and your imprisonment is likely to be a lengthy one. The true downside to felony convictions, however, is the rights that you lose once you are released.
How a Felony Affects Your Constitutional Rights
While being imprisoned for over a year is difficult enough, those charged with felonies in America can be punished with more than prison sentences or fines. Felons have a number of rights stripped of them, all of which can have a serious impact on their life.
The right to vote: There are many states in America where convicted felons are not allowed to vote, or must jump through extensive legal loops to do so. In Colorado, you may not vote while incarcerated for your felony conviction. Thankfully, this right is restored once you are released, however you will likely have to register to vote again. On top of that, remember that felony charges are for a year or longer, meaning it is possible you will miss the opportunity to vote in multiple elections if you are convicted.
The right to own a firearm: While the second amendment protects every American’s right to own and use a firearm, felons are not allowed such a privilege, as it is assumed that they will use the gun to hurt someone or incite violence.
Travel internationally: This one may surprise you, but felons are often barred from leaving the country. You need a passport to travel to most other countries, but passports must be applied for and granted by the American government. If you were convicted of a felony in the past, then the government can deny your application for a passport. Furthermore, if you apply for a visa from another country, meaning you ask permission to travel there, that other country can, and likely will, deny your visa if you were convicted of a serious crime.
The right to certain employment: While will not lose the right to work if convicted as a felon, you will lose the right to be employed by government entities. Most government jobs require employees to have a clean criminal record, meaning that a felony conviction will immediately bar you from countless government jobs. In addition, some employers may look up your charges and reject your application.
Felony Charges and Custody Rights
Losing the right to care of your children is not a given in a felony case, unlike losing the right to vote or travel. However, you cannot provide proper care while locked up in prison, and if custody is shifted from you to another person, such as a former spouse or your parents, it can be difficult to get it back. The courts care far more about the safety and wellbeing of your children than they do about what you want. Even if you are an incredible parent, the court may decide that being raised by a felon is too risky for your children. They may consider you a danger to them or a poor influence on them. Either way, the court may strip you of your custody rights.
On top of that, if the person now caring for your children feels you should not be able to see your kids at all, they can petition the court to have your rights to visitation taken away. This means that, if the court sees fit, you may not legally be allowed to see your kids until they are legal adults. At that point, it is impossible to say whether they will have kind memories of you, as their opinions on you would likely be swayed by the person caring for them, as well as your criminal history.
Ultimately, it is far better to be convicted of a misdemeanor than a felony. But, of course, the best option is to not be convicted at all. To do that, you will need the support of an experienced Colorado Springs criminal defense attorney. Our team at The Bussey Law Firm, P.C. has dedicated itself to helping those facing serious criminal charges and can prepare a thorough defense strategy. Our founding attorney has extensive experience achieving positive case results for his clients, including getting felony charges dismissed. We understand the system and we want to offer our help. For a strong legal defense, call our firm at (719) 401-0585 today.