What is a Felon?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A felon is a person who has been convicted of a felony, a severe crime which is punishable with more than a year in prison. Depending on the nature of the crime, in addition to being imprisoned, a felon may lose certain rights, such as the right to vote, while serving the sentence. The handling of felons varies widely depending on the nation in which a crime is committed and the nature of the crime.

Arson is a felony crime.
Arson is a felony crime.

Some examples of felonies are serious crimes such as rape, murder, aggravated assault, arson, and battery. Burglary can also result in a felony conviction as can some drug offenses. Some regions distinguish between violent and nonviolent felony offenses, separating felons by type when they are imprisoned. Felons can also be separated during incarceration if there are concerns about their safety or the safety of others.

Some jurisdictions distinguish between violent and nonviolent felony offenders.
Some jurisdictions distinguish between violent and nonviolent felony offenders.

Until someone has been convicted of a felony in a court of law, he or she is simply a suspect. People who have been accused of crimes have a number of protections under the law. These include the right to a fair trial and the right to access legal representation. After conviction, people still have rights, but they are truncated. For example, people are no longer entitled to move around freely after conviction, as felons are incarcerated as part of their punishment.

Felons on probation may have to give blood and urine samples for drug testing.
Felons on probation may have to give blood and urine samples for drug testing.

A felon may be released on probation if there is a belief that the criminal could benefit from probation as opposed to a prison sentence. Being released may provide opportunities for rehabilitation, for example. While on probation, the felon must report regularly to a probation officer and may have to submit samples of blood and urine for drug testing. There may be other restrictions on probation as well, such as an order to not leave a given area.

Being convicted of a felony will almost always guarantee prison time.
Being convicted of a felony will almost always guarantee prison time.

After serving a sentence, a felon is considered an ex-convict. Ex-convicts are often believed to pose a threat to society because of the nature of the crimes they have committed, and it is not uncommon for them to have difficulty securing housing or work. This can in turn put an ex-convict in an awkward position because the only way to survive may be to return to crime, even if this is not actually desirable. Programs which help people transition from prison to the outside world are specifically designed to address this issue, recognizing that people may need support, especially after extended prison stays.

A person who possesses even a tiny quantity of an illegal drug can be charged with a felony.
A person who possesses even a tiny quantity of an illegal drug can be charged with a felony.
Some cities offer programs that help ex-convicts transition from prison to the outside world.
Some cities offer programs that help ex-convicts transition from prison to the outside world.
Felons are not allowed to own firearms.
Felons are not allowed to own firearms.
Assault is a 3rd degree felony.
Assault is a 3rd degree felony.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

aLFredo

It make sense that felon's might have their rights restricted, especially in the case of owning a gun; but... it always seems like a sticky situation when you try restrict a *whole* group of people's rights.

Just considering the stories that are posted here on this discussion, the felonies were quite the range which I think should make it difficult to decide when to restrict the whole group's rights.

So I am glad to hear the states that are restricting a felon's right to vote are trying to change it!

suntan12

@Cupcake15 - I also wanted to add that felon laws also prevent a person convicted of a felony to own a gun. I wonder what would happen if a couple lived together and one person was authorized to own a gun and the other person had a felony and could not be in possession of a gun?

cupcake15

I just wanted to add that among some of the rights that are taken away from felons include voting and serving on a jury.

I remember a few years ago, Florida along with Kentucky and Virginia were the only states that did not allow felons to vote, but the laws were changed in Florida to allow the restoration of these rights.

The felon has to wait for the board to grant these rights, but they are usually restored in a timely fashion. This Florida felon law did cause some controversy because some were people were against the bill and felt that felons should not be allowed to vote.

I think that restoring felon rights makes sense because these people already paid their debt to society. They should have felon laws that protect these rights in all states.

OeKc05

While defending me in a nasty fight, my brother got arrested for battery. He was only protecting me from a jerk, but he really messed the guy up, and he had to serve a year and a half for it.

A guy had asked me to dance, and I accepted. After he started grabbing me inappropriately, I tried to get away, and he punched me. That set my brother off. He put the guy into a coma that lasted a week.

When my brother got out on probation, they made him do drug tests often. He had never done drugs, and his conviction was in no way related to substance abuse, but they required it. He also could not leave the state, so he could not go with us on our family vacation that year.

cloudel

@lighth0se33 - I have found that the best industry in which a felon can find a job is construction. That’s what I got started doing after my release.

Construction supervisors rarely do background checks. They just focus on getting the job done as quickly and as well as possible. I used this to my advantage when seeking employment. My employer didn’t even ask me if I had ever been convicted of a felony, and I was happy not to have to tell him.

The years of experience I have gained in construction since my release will help me if I ever have to seek another job. Hopefully, if I do, I can just find another construction position, because it is terribly embarrassing to talk about my past.

lighth0se33

Severe anger issues led my brother to become a felon. He and his girlfriend were fire and ice, and he snapped during an argument. He got three years for battery.

After his release, he did not know which way to turn to find a job. I let him stay with me, and we were able to get help through a website that recommends jobs for felons. The site informed him that his best resource would be a staffing agency.

The site encouraged him to look into his skills and list them while applying for temp-to-hire jobs. He found a part-time job at a warehouse that eventually became full-time. Once his boss learned to trust him, he even promoted him to supervisor.

Oceana

I dated a guy who became a felon. He always had a strange fascination with fire, but I had no idea that it would eventually lead to arson.

He could sit and stare at the flame his lighter made for long periods of time. He liked making bonfires and keeping candles lit. Now that I think of it, he always had some sort of flame going.

About six months after we met, he burned down a house with people inside. They did not die, but arson is a felony anyway. He got two years in prison, plus some much needed mental help.

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