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HOW TO GET YOUR CIVIL RIGHTS RESTORED

In Florida, a past felony conviction usually means loss of civil rights, including the right to vote, even after completion of all the terms and conditions of the sentence. Loss of civil rights takes away not only the right to vote, but also the right to hold public office, serve on a jury, and hold certain types of state job licenses.

A person with a past felony conviction loses those civil rights permanently until and unless he or she is granted restoration of civil rights by the Board of Executive Clemency. The Board of Executive Clemency is comprised of the Governor, Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer, and Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The right to restore civil rights is vested in the sole discretion of the Board of Executive Clemency. Rights are restored by an executive order signed by the Governor and two Cabinet members. Once your civil rights are restored, you will once again be able to vote, serve on a jury, hold public office, and apply for many state occupational licenses.

On April 5, 2007, the Florida Board of Executive Clemency adopted new Rules of Executive Clemency. Under these new rules, there are now three levels of approval for restoration of civil rights depending on the nature of the felony conviction.

UNDER ALL THREE LEVELS, INDIVIDUALS MUST:

· Complete their sentence and supervision

· Have no pending charges or detainers

· Pay all victim restitution

Visit the Office of Executive Clemency website for the OEC's description of the new RCR process and for the OEC's answers to frequently asked questions.


The three levels created by the new Rules of Executive Clemency are summarized here.  For a full description of the different levels, review the Rules of Executive Clemency.

LEVEL I

Eligibility

  • No violent offenses (see Level 1 list)
  • Not declared a habitual violent felony offender, a 3-time violent felony offender, violent career criminal, prison releasee reoffender, sexual predator

Procedure

  • Rights are restored without a hearing
  • Ex-offenders in Level I are not required to apply for rights restoration but we recommend that they submit an application (Data Worksheet) form to update their contact information with the Office of Executive Clemency.

LEVEL II

Eligibility

  • Convicted of offenses more severe than Level 1 offenses, except murder and sex offenses (See Level II list)
  • Not declared to be a sexual predator

Or

  • 15 years arrest and crime free

Procedure

  • Rights may be restored without a hearing after a mid-level investigation. If civil rights are not restored without a hearing, then the case can be considered at a hearing after a full investigation, if you notify the Office of Executive Clemency that you want a hearing.

LEVEL III

Eligibility

  • Convicted of murder or sex offenses, sexual predators and those not approved in Level I or II

Procedure

  • Full investigation and hearing


If you are in Level II or Level III, you should follow the steps outlined below to complete your application for restoration of your civil rights (RCR). For additional information about the RCR process, you may also visit the Florida Clemency website.

Members of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition are available to assist you with this process, free of charge. We can help you complete your application, put together your portfolio, and prepare for your hearing, if your case requires one. You may contact the FRRC at info@restorerights.org, or 786-363-2731.

You do not need an attorney to apply for RCR.

The information on this website is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice


Step 1: When Do I Need to Have My Civil Rights Restored?

You lost your civil rights (right to vote, right to sit on a jury, right to hold public office), and the ability to apply for certain state-issued occupational licenses if:

  • You have a federal or state felony conviction and you were a resident of the State of Florida when the offense and conviction occurred
  • You have federal or state felony conviction outside of Florida and your rights have not been restored before you became a Florida resident

Only an adjudication of guilt results in a loss of civil rights ? a withholding of adjudication that does not result in a felony conviction does not result in loss of voting and other civil rights

Step 2: Am I Eligible for Restoration of Civil Rights?

You are eligible to apply for restoration of your civil rights if:

  • You have completed your sentence and all conditions of supervision, such as probation, parole
  • You have satisfied any obligation to pay restitution
  • You have no outstanding arrests/detainers

Step 3: What Should I Consider Before I Apply for Restoration of My Civil Rights?

Before you submit your application, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Have I put forward every reasonable effort to be a productive and lawful member of society?
  2. Have I documented my progress in society with regards to my employment, community activities, involvement in church and other social programs etc.?
  3. Have I cultivated any ties in the community that would be useful to my future progress? Am I still maintaining open communication with these constituents; and keeping them informed of the ways that I am contributing to my community?
  4. Am I staying abreast of all events, which are related to my case, situation, and needs?
  5. Am I prepared to take full responsibility for getting my civil rights restored?

If you?re satisfied with your answers to these questions, you?re ready to apply for restoration of your civil rights.

Remember: If you are in Level I, you are no longer required to apply for rights restoration. However, we recommend that you submit an application (Data Worksheet) form to the Office of Executive Clemency to update your contact information. If you move, or if your contact information changes before your civil rights are restored, be sure to provide your up-to-date contact information to the Office of Executive Clemency.

Step 4: How Do I Apply for Restoration of My Civil Rights in Florida?

To start your restoration of right process, you must complete a Restoration of Civil Rights Data Worksheet and submit it to the Office of Executive Clemency. You can also apply by submitting an online Civil Rights Restoration Request Form; however, it is suggested that you submit a written application rather than submitting your application online; this would allow you to copy your application and have proof that you completed and mailed your application to the Office of Executive Clemency.

Effective January 2002, if you were released from incarceration and/or supervision, your name should be electronically transmitted to the Office of Executive Clemency for restoration of civil rights without a hearing. It is your responsibility to contact the Office of Executive Clemency if you do not receive a certificate of restoration of civil rights after one year from release.

Remember: If you are in Level I, you are no longer required to apply for rights restoration. However, we recommend that you submit an application (Data Worksheet) form to the Office of Executive Clemency to update your contact information. If you move, or if your contact information changes before your civil rights are restored, be sure to provide your up-to-date contact information to the Office of Executive Clemency.

Step 5 : Should I Submit Additional Information Supporting My Application?

YES, you are more likely to achieve a successful outcome in the RCR application process if you submit additional information in support of your application. Remember, if you are in Level 1, you do not need to submit additional information supporting your application.

In deciding what to submit, think about how to make the most of your activities, community contacts, and your own attitude will help you advance not only in the RCR process, but possibly also in other life endeavors. You should:

1. Engage in an honest assessment of yourself: Have you done anything that would   incline others to want to help you or make an extraordinary recommendation on your behalf? Have you done something that would cause them NOT to want to assist you? If so, what can you do about it?

2. Invite Feedback From Others. Ask family members, church leaders, employers, and community leaders that you respect and trust. Make yourself accountable to some individuals of your own choosing. It may not be easy to open yourself up, but you can often get valuable feedback when you do.

3. Ask for Assistance. If you want others to support your efforts for RCR, ask them. It will be your responsibility to keep them abreast of all events relating to your case/situation. Employment, community activities, and group or organization affiliations, etc. are all important to you. THEY ARE EQUALLY AS IMPORTANT TO THOSE DESIRING TO HELP!

Step 6: How Should I Put Together My Supporting Information?

Now that you have considered how the people and activities in your life ? not to mention your own positive attitude ? can help you in the RCR process, you?re ready to start collecting supporting information for your portfolio. We encourage you to use the checklist below as a guide for the types of letters that you can get to support your application. This checklist is not all inclusive. Don?t limit yourself to the above list. You may be able to think of other persons from whom you could request a letter of support.

Remember, if you are in Level I, you do not need to submit additional information supporting your application.

Letters of Support:

  • Letter(s) from present and/or former employer(s);
  • Letter(s) from church or religious affiliation(s);
  • Letters from representatives of social organizations in which you participate, such as the Jaycees, Toastmaster, Fraternal Order, etc.;
  • Letters from community-based organizations with which you have had contact;
  • Letter from the victim or victim?s family, if applicable for your conviction. While this may be difficult, if it is possible to get such a letter, it can be extremely helpful to your RCR application;
  • If you choose to include letters from family members, please note that they carry little weight

You may think of additional items such as press clippings from a community event in which you were involved that you would like to include in your portfolio

Personal Letter:

You may want to write your own letter expressing your remorse for the actions that resulted in your felony conviction, and a desire to be restored as a full member of society. (These reasons are more persuasive to the Clemency Board than your desire to get an occupational license. So, you may want to mention your employment goals, but the other reasons are more important.)

In addition to sending the letter to the Clemency Board Coordinator, you should also send the letter to the members of the Board of Executive Clemency and to their Clemency Aides.

Step 7: Where should I send my application and supporting documents?

Mail all documents to: Coordinator
                                   Office of Executive Clemency
                                   2601 Blair Stone Road , Building C
                                   Room 244
                                   Tallahassee , Florida 32399-2450

If you are in Level I, you only need to submit your updated contact information.

If you are in Level II or Level III, your complete package should include:

  • Cover letter to Clemency Board Coordinator
  • Personal Letter, including a Statement of the relief you are requesting (restoration of civil rights)
  • Letters of Support in the order of importance
  • You can always send in additional materials while your application is pending.

BE SURE TO KEEP A COPY OF EVERY DOCUMENT THAT YOU SEND TO THE OFFICE OF EXECUTIVE CLEMENCY.

Step 8: Should I Do Anything After I Submit My Application and Portfolio?

Yes. After you send in your application and portfolio, you should follow up to make sure all documents have been received. The following checklist will help you make sure to take the proper steps to monitor the progress of your application.

1. Once your package has been mailed, wait 2 weeks, and then call Office of Executive Clemency to verify receipt of your package.

  • If you are eligible for restoration of civil rights without a hearing, your process is    complete. You need only wait for a certificate of restoration to be mailed to you. (To see if you will require a hearing, see the Rules of Executive Clemency ? Rule 9)
  • If your case requires a hearing, you can expect to receive notice from the Parole Commission informing you of an investigation that will likely be conducted by a local Parole and Probation field officer (Parole Examiner).

2. If you submit additional documents, call the Office of Executive Clemency to make sure the documents have been received.

3. Always inform the Office of Executive Clemency if you change your address and/or telephone number.

Bear in mind that the RCR process from start to finish may take as long as 1 year to 2 years to be completed. Once the interviewing Parole Examiner completes their investigation of your case, a full report will then be forwarded to the Parole Commission in Tallahassee, as well as to the Executive Clemency Board. A notice of a hearing date will be sent to you if it is determined that your case requires a full review by the Executive Clemency Board.

Step 9: Should I attend the hearing of my case?

Yes! If you case requires a hearing, you should make every effort to attend the hearing at which the Board of Executive Clemency will consider your case. This will increase the chances of a favorable outcome.

The Office of Executive Clemency is required to mail you advance notice of the date on which your case will be heard. The Board of Executive Clemency meets four times each year.

At the hearing, you will have an opportunity to address the Clemency Board directly. Also, you may have others address the Clemency Board on your behalf. In addition, if there was a victim of your crime, the victim may also address the Clemency Board.

Note that your case may not require a hearing:

  • If you are in Level I, your civil rights will be granted without a hearing.
  • If you are in Level II, your civil rights also may be granted without a hearing. You will be notified if your civil rights are not granted within 30 days after the Office of Executive Clemency supplies your information to the Clemency Board. You should then file an application and supporting documents and attend your hearing.

Closing Thoughts on the RCR Process

Congratulations on going the extra mile to make sure that your RCR application is the best it can be! Applying for RCR and/or other forms of clemency can be a real "close encounter" with your community contacts, with yourself, and maybe even with the Governor.  As you go through this process, and as you begin new endeavors in your life, keep in mind these final "Do"s:

1. Maintain your sense of hope and unbending motivation. Motivation is the fire that makes you GO!

2. Develop and stick to a realistic plan with achievable goals. This will sustain your motivation.

3. Further your education and expand your job skills.

4. Pursue opportunities to give back to your community.

5. Seek the support you need from loved ones and community resources (emotional, social, etc.).

You can do it!

We?re here to help: info@restorerights.org or 786-363-2731

The information on this website is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice