You might be aware that after a conviction, you lose certain civil rights. According to the Sentencing Project, over 6 million otherwise eligible voters in the United States no longer enjoy voting rights due to a felony conviction. As with many aspects of the justice system, African Americans are disproportionately affected by voter disenfranchisement, with 1 in 13 losing their voting rights compared to 1 in 56 non-black citizens.
Voter disenfranchisement laws have a serious effect on our democracy. Laws vary by state, and you should know that there are ways to restore your rights after a conviction in Arizona.
If you are convicted of a felony in Arizona, you no longer have the right to:
Your rights are automatically restored at the end of your probationary period, or upon unconditional discharge and payment of court-ordered fines. The exception is your right to bear arms. Even first-time offenders need to apply for these rights to be restored, and certain felony convictions require you to wait two years, ten years, or (for juveniles) until you turn 30.
If you are convicted of a felony more than once, you need to seek out a pardon or judicial restoration. Since pardons are rarely granted in Arizona, it’s generally best to seek restoration of your rights from a judge. With the help of your attorney, you apply for judicial restoration from the court where you were sentenced. The process varies based on the type of felony and the type of sentence you served.
Certain felonies are also eligible for a judicial set-aside, which dismisses your charges after you serve your sentence. This restores your rights, but the conviction still “counts” as a predicate offense, meaning that if you are charged a second time, it will be considered a second offense.
With set-asides and restoration, there are rules based on specific charges, which your attorney should explain to you when reviewing your options.
After serving a sentence, there’s a lot on your mind. Helping you restore your rights should be on your attorney’s mind. Of course, ideally your attorney will help you avoid a felony conviction in the first place. Regardless of the outcome of your case, your attorney should do everything he or she can to protect your civil rights.