Protecting Your Rights
It is hard to ignore the widespread media coverage of the presidential election. Likewise, you probably can't get very far in California without seeing state election propaganda. The right to vote is an important one, and our democracy depends on our citizens being able to exercise that right. We all deserve the right to vote, but many of us have that right taken away. For example, some people with criminal convictions may lose their right to vote either temporarily or permanently. Some people don't care about the preservation of voting rights. But many others see it as unfair to revoke of one of your most important rights. If you've been convicted of a crime and have concerns about your voting rights, there are some things you should know.
First, know that laws on voting rights may vary from state to state. Disfranchisement laws in each state provide that under certain circumstances, the government can deprive someone of this very important right. These laws make it harder if not impossible for those with criminal convictions to vote. In some states, only those convicted of a felony lose their voting rights, but sometimes permanently. In other states, felonies and certain misdemeanor crimes can result in a revocation of your voting rights. Maine and Vermont, to date, have no such disfranchisement laws that prevent felons from voting. In California, those who are incarcerated for a felony cannot vote. You also cannot vote if you are on parole or otherwise under community supervision for a felony conviction. While this may seem like a small segment of the population, this actually applies to over 200,000 Californians. The number those of who do not vote may be even higher because some people with criminal records mistakenly assume they don't have the right to vote when in fact they may. Many people with criminal convictions don't know whether they can vote in California and may not even try to register. This contributes to inaccurate election results as convicted Californians are led to believe they do not have the right to vote.
The Effects of a Felony
Voting rights are important to all Americans, regardless of their criminal past. Unfortunately, while you are serving a sentence or under community supervision for a felony offense, you will be unable to vote. If you are facing potential felony charges, you may be concerned about your ability to vote in the upcoming elections. There may be a way you can preserve your right to vote before you are convicted of a felony. Some California crimes can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. These crimes are called wobblers because they can be charged way. If you've committed one of these offenses, there is a chance your felony charge can be reduced to a misdemeanor. In this case, you will not lose your right to vote. Getting a felony reduced to a misdemeanor isn't easy, however, and you may need skilled legal representation to achieve the result you want.
A felony conviction will have much more serious effects on your life than a misdemeanor conviction. Though it may be one simple decision made by a judge, the differences between a felony and a misdemeanor are significant. You could lose your voting rights while serving your sentence or under community supervision. Because of this, speaking with an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you better understand the consequences of a felony conviction and what you can do in your case to avoid such a conviction. Some felony charges can be reduced to a misdemeanor, and a skilled attorney can help increase your chances of this happening. If this is not an option for you, a skilled criminal trial attorney may be able to have you acquitted at trial. In either case, your rights are worth fighting for.
Do you have questions about your voting rights? Visalia area criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens can inform you of your rights and advise you on how to reinstate them, if applicable. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Mr. Martens has handled thousands of cases and has taken over 50 to trial. Attorney Christopher Martens has the skills and knowledge needed to defend your rights. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide expert criminal defense counsel. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.