- A felony is a serious crime that is punishable by a minimum term of one year in state or federal prison or death.
- Felony incarceration is the period of time that a citizen who has been convicted of a felony spends in state or federal prison.
- A felony conviction can affect citizenship in two ways. 1) A naturalized US citizen can lose their citizenship if they concealed this criminal history during the naturalization process. 2) A citizen who is convicted of a felony may lose some of their rights while incarcerated as well as after their release. This includes being disenfranchised, or no longer having the right to vote.
What is the impact of a felony on citizenship?
A felon is a person who has been convicted of a felony, which is a serious crime punishable by death or a minimum term of one year in state or federal prison. Most felons are U.S. citizens. The majority of them are born in the U.S. and are citizens since birth. But what about those who became citizens after immigrating to this country? If they commit a felony will this revoke their citizenship? No, once someone has become a naturalized citizen, they have all the rights that other U.S. citizens have. This includes being a permanent citizen, and, according to the law, their citizenship cannot be taken away. There is, however, one exception to this.
Remember, the naturalization process? An important part of the application process is a determination of whether or not an applicant is of “good moral character.” As part of this, they must be fingerprinted and pass an FBI background check to determine if they have a criminal record. If an immigrant obtains citizenship through naturalization by concealing a material fact or by willful misrepresentation (they lied about or concealed something during the naturalization process like having a criminal history), they can be denaturalized. Denaturalization is the legal process in which US citizens involuntarily lose their citizenship.
How does felony incarceration impact the rights of a citizen?
Felony incarceration is the period of time that a citizen who has been convicted of a felony spends in state or federal prison. US citizens may lose some of their rights while incarcerated as well as after their release. What rights do felons lose during and after incarceration? Well, that is up to the individual states. States have the ability to decide which rights a citizen loses when they are convicted of a felony as well as which rights can be regained once the citizen is released from prison, from parole, and from probation. Rights that could be taken away from convicted felons vary from state to state, but often include:
Felony disenfranchisement differs from state to state. As of 2019, 2 states have no voting restrictions for felons, 18 disenfranchise felons while they are imprisoned, 3 disenfranchise felons while they are imprisoned and during parole, 17 disenfranchise felons while they are imprisoned, during parole, and during probation, and 11 disenfranchise felons while they are imprisoned, during parole, during probation, as well as post-sentence.
Recently, there has been a trend toward reinstating felons’ right to vote either after incarceration or some time after, but these policy changes are made on a state-by-state basis.
Some states prohibit felons from serving on a jury while others prohibit them from serving for a certain period of time post-conviction. Most states prohibit felons from serving on juries if they are currently a defendant in a trial at that time.
Possessing or purchasing a firearm
The federal law (18 U.S.C. 922(g)) states that anyone convicted of a felony cannot possess or purchase a firearm.
Traveling outside the country
Although felons may leave the US, if they have an approved passport, other countries can deny them entry. If a felon is still on probation; however, they must get approval from their probation officer beforehand in order to travel.
Although a convicted felon is not removed of their parental rights, the conviction could make it difficult to win in custody battles.
Employment in certain professions
Certain professions that require licenses such as teachers, day care workers, law enforcement agencies, and the military ban felons from being employed in that field.
Public assistance and housing
Convicted felons who received Social Security are not allowed to access benefits while they are incarcerated. Access to other benefits varies depending on the regulations of individual states.
What do you think?
- Do you think naturalized citizens should be denaturalized if discovered they were convicted of a felony prior to becoming a US citizen? Why or why not?
- Do you think that protection of a felon’s rights as a citizen should be a state or federal decision or a combination of both?
- Is the variation of felony disenfranchisement across states in the US fair? Why or why not?
Want to join the conversation?
- why can other countries deny you an entry if you are a felon?(3 votes)
- Think about it: would you want someone who committed a serious crime (such as murder) to enter your country, where they could just...do it again?(6 votes)