Andrew M. Coffey, P.A.
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Is it time to revisit Florida's stance on voting rights for ex-felons?

While we tend to think of the consequences of a felony conviction in terms of things like the amount of time a person will have to spend behind bars or the potentially steep fines they will be required to pay, it's important to understand that there are other collateral consequences.

For instance, a felony on a criminal record can make it difficult to secure access to everything from employment and education to housing and, of course, the voting booth. Interestingly enough, however, there is now movement underway to restore the voting rights of ex-felons here in the Sunshine State.

Do ex-felons currently have no voting rights in Florida?

Florida is only one of four states mandating that felons who have otherwise completed their sentences must still apply to a state clemency board for restoration of their voting rights.

Specifically, under rules established back in March 2011, ex-felons convicted of non-violent crimes have to wait until five years have passed since the completion of their sentence and restitution has been paid before they can apply for restoration of their voting rights sans hearing.

As for ex-felons convicted of violent crimes, they are required to wait until seven years have passed since the completion of their sentence and must secure approval via a hearing.

Does the state clemency board actually restore voting rights?

Consider that in 2014 alone over 6,000 cases came before the board, yet the voting rights of only 562 people were ultimately restored.

Have things always been this way in Florida?

From 1975 to 2004, there was a five-year waiting period in Florida for all ex-felons in Florida seeking to restore their voting rights. From 2004 onward, the waiting period for nonviolent ex-felons was eliminated, but they were still required to apply for restoration of voting rights.

This changed in 2007 when then-Governor Charlie Crist instituted a new rule calling for the automatic restoration of voting rights for non-violent ex-felons who had completed their sentences. This was replaced four years later, however, by the current system we described above.

We'll continue this discussion in our next post, examining the effort currently underway to restore voting rights to those who have paid their debt to society ...

If you have been charged with any sort of felony, it's imperative to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible given all that is at stake. 

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Andrew M. Coffey has been recognized as a Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer by the Florida Bar. Certification is the highest level of recognition by The Florida Bar of the competency and experience of attorneys in the areas of law approved for certification by the Supreme Court of Florida.

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