What are the rights of a person convicted of a felony after they have served their time? That's our Facebook Story of the Day.
A person is charged with a felony offense only when they face a minimum punishment of at least one year in jail or prison. The most common felonies committed in the U.P. are related to controlled substances and drug abuse. Most felonies are committed by individuals under the age of 25.
The laws they must abide by differ from state to state, but the felons must also follow federal laws.
In Michigan, once felons are released from prison or jail, they can vote and run for office (as long as they didn't commit specfic political felonies), but they can't necessarily carry firearms or serve on a jury.
According to our state law, felons can get their firearm rights restored in a three to five year period following the end of their probation or parole depending on the type of their offense. They must then go to the local gun board, operated by local police or sheriff's departments, following that time to have their rights restored.
However, federal law states that "a person convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year may not ship, transport, possess or receive any firearm or ammunition." That means, even if it's legal in Michigan for a felon to possess a firearm, it's still against federal law and can be prosecuted federally.
"You could be in violation of federal law, but not Michigan state law. The only way you could ever be free of both systems is if you get your civil rights restored," says Matt Wiese, Chief Assistant Prosecutor for Marquette County.
To get your civil rights restored, you must have your criminal record expunged or 'set aside' by petitioning the courts. In order to be eligible for this, five years must pass after a person is convicted or released from jail or prison with a completely clean criminal record.
Marquette Attorney George Hyde says for some of his clients facing substance abuse problems, that can be difficult.
"Addiction is a very powerful thing, and a lot of people struggle with that, so I do see a lot of repeat offenders," says Hyde.
However, he says many young people do learn their lesson the first time and make it past that period, free of any criminal charges. In that case, they could potentially have their firearms rights restored through expungement.
"That is a procedure to do through the federal courts; it's very rare and very unusual to make that happen," Wiese says.
However, in almost no circumstances, even in that process, would a convicted felon be allowed to obtain a concealed weapons permit.
Hyde says these restrictions do worry many of his clients facing felony charges.
"They're concerned about a lot of stuff, jail or prison time, employment prospects," Hyde says. "Here in the U.P., a lot of people hunt; the ability to hunt, carry and possess weapons is a huge concern for a lot of people that find themselves in trouble."
Some of our Facebook viewers don't think restrictions these individuals face are fair.
"If they shouldn't be allowed to vote or own a firearm, they shouldn't be out of prison. Those are the rights of free people. If they aren't in prison, they are free," says Facebook viewer, Adam Frank.
Others say there's reasons for these laws, even for non-violent offenses.
"The idea is that if you're on drugs, you're not in your sound mind, and it would make sense to prohibit that type of person from a firearm," Wiese says.
Violations of federal or state law can lead to steep punishment.
"Just while the police or federal agents are investigating something, they can come across someone that has a conviction and has a gun, and then they're in a world of trouble," Hyde says.
A felon in possession of a firearm is a felony offense and can lead to more time in jail or prison.
Many viewers also asked about employment prospects. Many employers will ask if a person has been convicted of a felony. It is not illegal for a person to lie about their criminal background on an application, however, employers can run background checks and discover any false statements, which could lead to termination.