Tennessee is among the many states that have felon disenfranchisement laws. These rules affect people who have been convicted of certain crimes. They limit or outright deny access to voting, employment opportunities, public benefits, housing assistance, and professional licensing opportunities.
Patton & Pittman Attorneys is here to broadly explain these laws. We'll cover who is eligible for various rights and what restrictions apply.
Voting Rights for Tennessee Felons
In general, felons who have completed their sentences initially lose their voting rights, but they can regain these rights later.
However, election crimes can result in the permanent loss of voting rights. Such crimes include voting machine tampering or bribery at the polls.
While in prison, inmates cannot vote.
Other Civil Rights Felons Can Lose in Tennessee
- Holding state or local office
- Possessing firearms and ammunition
Like voting rights, the court can reinstate firearm rights for former felons.
If employed by the government, convicted felons can be terminated and banned from working in any public office job again.
The Long-Term Implications of Losing Your Civil Rights
People with revoked civil rights are also required to make their status public. This can contribute to additional humiliation and stigma on top of the punishments already served.
Additionally, this declaration makes it difficult to access employment, housing, and other basic services.
Restoring Civil Rights After a Felony Conviction in Tennessee
Having your rights reinstated can be an arduous process, especially if you are not familiar with the law. To better understand the process, you must know your options.
You can file a petition in court or complete rehabilitation programs. You may also be asked to pay restitution. Additionally, certain types of clemency are available from the governor's office, depending on the specific crime. Make sure to get help from a skilled attorney when you attempt to regain your civil rights.
Retaining as Many Civil Rights as Possible
During legal proceedings, certain strategies can protect your civil rights. Your attorney should, as part of your overall defense, negotiate for keeping your rights intact. They can, for instance, challenge a police officer's authority or question any discriminatory practices by law enforcement personnel.
Working toward a fair sentence is part of an attorney’s job, even when their client is found guilty. Discuss all options for sentencing and preserving your rights with your lawyer.
Organizations Working Toward Restoring a Felon’s Civil Liberties Tennessee
Organizations in Tennessee dedicated to restoring voting rights, civil liberties, and social justice to felons are doing terrific work.
The bipartisan advocacy group “VOTE”, which stands for “Voters of Tennessee Equity”, is
fighting to give every Tennessean a voice in the democratic process.
The Reginald Henderson Freedom Fund, founded by two Knoxville residents, helps pay off a felon’s court fees. This allows people to go on with their lives free from crippling fines. The group also helps convicts find employment.
Our team is committed to defending people in criminal court. We can work to preserve your freedom, keep sentencing fair, and restore your lost rights. If you need help, contact our office online or call us directly at (931) 361-4477.