Lately, the Florida Criminal Defense lawyers of Blake & Dorsten, P.A.have received numerous questions regarding how to restore civil rights. Generally, these questions come from people who have been convicted of one or more felony crimes. In Florida when you are ajudicated guilty (rather then receiving a withhold of ajudication) you are considered a convicted felon. You lose many of your civil rights such as the right to vote, the right to own a firearm (which even if your civil rights are granted back, you will need to wait an additional eight years from the date you have completed all conditions of your original criminal offense before becoming eligible), the right to hold public office and (maybe some good news) the right to serve on a jury.
The following is a brief overview of what the Pinellas criminal defense lawyers at Blake & Dorsten, P.A. do to attempt to restore peoples civil rights. Civil rights are restored through the Office of Executive Clemency. This Board is comprised of the Governor, Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer and the Commissioner of Agricultural and Consumer Services.
New rules of executive clemency were implemented in 2007. Convicted felons who hope to restore their civil rights now fall under three levels. In all three levels, certain rules appy. To be eligible for civil rights restoration, you must have no pending charges, your sentence must be completed and all restitution must have been paid to the victim (if any).
You are eligible under the first level if you have never commited a violent offense (such as child abuse or aggravated battery). In addition you must not be declared a habitual violent felony offender, a three time violent felony offender, a violent career criminal or a sexual predator. If you qualify, your rights are restored WITHOUT a hearing. This can still be a time consuming process however, generally taking six months to a year or more.
A Level two applicant has been convicted of a violent offense and does not qualify under level one rules. These violent offenses cover everything but murder and sex offenses. As you can imagine, the standards to restore your civil rights become more difficult. You must still qualify like level one but now you don’t automatically qualify for rights restoration. If your civil rights are not restored after whats called a mid-level investigation, your attorney will need to contact the Office of Executive Clemency to request a full hearing.
As you might have guessed, a Level three applicant was convicted of murder or sexual offenses or a sexual predator. He/she will not be able to get their civil rights restored without a full investigation AND a hearing…
In conclusion, restoring your Florida Civil Rights is not easy, quick, or guaranteed. It is a long, arduous process. Having experienced criminal defense lawyers to help you through the legal minefields gives you the best chance of sucess.