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September 12, 2023READ THE POST
The coming 2020 election has news outlets abuzz with voters’ rights, perhaps more than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic has made absentee voting and mail-in ballots a hotly debated topic, and the Trump administration’s immigration policies have brought immigrants’ voting rights into the spotlight.
However, one topic is ignored every election term, and this one is no exception: The right of individuals with felony convictions to vote. When this right is taken away after being convicted of a felony, it is considered one of many collateral consequences associated with having a felony record.
Only two states, Vermont and Maine, have never taken away voting rights from those with felony convictions, even while serving time in jail or prison. Today 48 states, Colorado included, place some restrictions on felons’ voting rights.
Two states ban felons from voting for a lifetime. Some states make reinstatement of voting rights so difficult that few succeed in ever regaining these rights. And in all states — including Colorado — many persons with felony convictions assume that they do not have the right to vote, so never make it to the ballot box on election day.
If you have a felony conviction in Colorado, you do in fact have the right to vote, unless you are currently serving time in jail or prison. In fact, Colorado House Bill 19-1266, which was passed in 2019, restored voting rights to persons on parole or probation for felony convictions.
So what about other collateral consequences of a Colorado felony conviction?
While a felony conviction on your record does often result in a number of restrictions on your freedom, there are also many misconceptions as to your rights as a former felon.
Let’s take a closer look…
If you have been convicted of a felony in any state, both Colorado’s state and federal laws bar you from buying or holding in your possession any firearm or ammunition. This also applies to domestic violence convictions — even misdemeanor-level offenses in some cases.
Should you be caught in illegal possession of a firearm, you will be charged with the crime of possession of a weapon by a previous offender. This is a Class 5 felony for a first conviction and a Class 4 felony for a second or subsequent conviction.
In most cases, this conviction is punishable by at least some jail time, in addition to substantial fines and legal fees. A first conviction carries a possible prison sentence of 1-3 years, while a second conviction carries a sentence of 2-6 years.
Most former felons have substantial difficulty maintaining gainful employment, even long after their prison sentence is served and parole or probation complete. This often leads former felons to turn to a life of crime simply to feed their families.
Although a former conviction can keep you from getting hired for many occupations, you are legally forbidden to hold the following occupations:
If you have certain convictions, a sex crime conviction, for example, you could face additional employment restrictions, for example from healthcare occupations or jobs that involve working with children.
A felony conviction can and will show up on criminal background checks. This can have several collateral consequences:
Individuals with felony convictions often face poverty after their release from prison and struggle to feed their families. Unfortunately, your conviction can, in some cases, affect your eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) program, commonly referred to as food stamps.
If you were convicted of a drug felony, you will be required to complete a drug or alcohol treatment program prior to applying for SNAP benefits.
Otherwise, you are absolutely eligible and should exercise the right to apply for these important benefits and feed your family. Unfortunately, many individuals with former felony convictions incorrectly believe that they’re ineligible when this just isn’t the case.
If you have a felony conviction sitting on your record, the collateral consequences are real. Still, many who have been convicted believe they’re under certain restrictions when they aren’t.
If you have questions about an unfair collateral consequence you are personally facing or whether your rights are being violated, there are legal steps you can take to learn more, and then protect and restore them.
About the Author:
Andrew Bryant is a well-respected Colorado Springs criminal attorney who has been practicing in the area for years. A Colorado native, he returned to the home he loves after graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Now, he uses the knowledge he gained as an El Paso County District Attorney to fight tirelessly for his clients’ rights. He is AV-Preeminent rated, has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, and has been named to Best of the Springs lists by The Gazette for years.
Contact The Law Office of Andrew Bryant today for a free consultation concerning your criminal or family law case. You are just a click away from a top-rated and respected team with the experience and tenacity to ensure you get the best legal services offered in Colorado Springs – call or email now.