Can I Vote if I Have a Felony Conviction?
If you believe that you can make a difference and vote in an election, whether it is for the U.S. President, or for the state Senate or Congress, the fact that you have a criminal conviction could affect you. Until recently, convicted felons, i.e. those people who had served their terms in prison, yet had convictions for some sort of felony, were not allowed to vote in Florida. That restriction changed last year. In November 2018, Amendment 4 was approved by voters across the state. The Amendment allowed most, but not all felons, the right to vote. Those that couldn’t were those who had been convicted for the most serious of crimes, such as sexual offenses and murder.
For some, those who are excited about exercising their newly won right to vote, it may now be a disappointment to learn that the newly acquired right to vote may not last long. Within a short time after Amendment 4 came into being, a new Senate Bill SB 7066 was signed into law by Florida’s governor. The bill doesn’t overturn the Amendment completely, but does make it more difficult for convicted felons to vote unless they have discharged al their responsibilities, financial and otherwise, expected of them due to their conviction for the crime they committed.
When you are convicted of a felony in Florida there are a number of penalties imposed. The main one that all those convicted first have to contend with is incarceration. Penalties for felonies generally involve at least a year in a state prison. In addition, there will be fines, probation, community service and parole if you are let out early.
SB 7066 limits the right to vote as granted under Amendment 4 to those felons who have “fulfilled all the terms of their sentence.” What this means is that, in practice, if someone has been let out of prison, they still have to repay any debts due to the state and complete all the other things they have been ordered to do.
The biggest hurdle is the repayment of debts owed to the state. These may include court and probation fees as well as fines. Courts in Florida rely on payments to sustain their existence. That’s partly the reason why there was a move to restrict the voting rights of felons to those who had paid their dues in full.
Research by a University of Florida professor indicated that 80% of those who had been released from prison with felony convictions still owed substantial financial obligations, known in the state as legal financial obligations or LFOs.
It can be difficult trying to work out exactly how much you owe the state as there is no single database that covers these dues. If you have been released from prison recently and are anxious to clear your debts so you are free to vote, your best bet is to contact the Department of Corrections or the court clerk’s office in the county you were first charged.
If you are unsure of your rights, or believe your rights have been infringed, contact Miami based criminal defense attorney, Albert Quirantes Esq. at his office at 305-644-1800.
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For over 30 years, Miami criminal defense attorney Albert M. Quirantes has been aggressively and zealously defending the rights of those accused of felony and misdemeanor crimesthroughout South Florida. With his dedicated team, reasonable legal fees, and a well-earned reputation for challenging prosecutors at every turn, he has protected over 8,000 clients during some of the roughest times of their lives.
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