Unlike a misdemeanor offense which generally has no adverse effect, a felony conviction in Arizona will result in the suspension of several important civil rights. These include:
- The right to vote
- The right to hold public office of trust or profit
- The right to serve as a juror
- The right to posses a firearm
The Process to Restore Civil Rights
At the time a person is sentenced for a felony conviction, the court must inform a person in writing of the person's right to the restoration of civil rights. A person seeking to have their civil right restored must file an application with the court. The court has discretion to grant or deny the application. However, if the application to restore civil rights is denied, the court must explain the reason for the denial in writing. If approved, the court clerk must notify the department of public safety that a person's civil rights, including the right to possess a firearm is restored. The department of public safety will place a notation on the person's criminal history that states there was a restoration of civil rights. Unfortunately, the restoration of civil rights does not prevent the department of public safety from considering a felony conviction when deciding whether to issue a fingerprint clearance card.
An application to restore civil rights may be filed upon completion of probation, or after two years has passed since a person was released from prison. The application may be filed by the individual seeking to have his civil rights restored, their attorney or a probation officer. However, a separate application must be made to restore a person's right to own or possess a firearm. Again, whether to grant any application for restoration of civil rights rests within the discretion of the court.
Automatic Restoration of Civil Rights Following a Felony Conviction
In certain cases, a person's civil rights, except for the right to possess a firearm, may be automatically restored following conviction for a felony offense. To be eligible for an automatic restoration of civil rights, a person convicted of a felony in Arizona:
- Must not have previously been convicted of any other felony offense
- Must have completed probation or have been absolutely discharged from prison
- Must have fully paid any restitution which was owed to a victim or victims
Again, a person's right to possess a firearm is not automatically restored even if these conditions are met.
Restoration of the Right to Possess a Firearm
Many people are concerned about their ability to ever possess a firearm after they have been convicted of a felony offense in Arizona. This results from the fact that people own and possess guns for a variety of reasons including collection, protection, sport shooting and hunting. The restoration of a person's right to possess a firearm can be ordered by the court only after an application is made. The application can only be made after two years has passed since the person seeking to restore their gun rights have completed probation or have been discharged from prison. Again, if the application is granted, a notation would be placed on the person's criminal history by the department of public safety stating that they are allowed to possess a firearm.
In certain instances, the right to possess a firearm following a felony conviction will be prohibited or delayed. These situations include:
- Dangerous Offense Convictions - Offenses which are characterized as "dangerous" such as certain aggravated assaults, armed robberies, etc. will preclude a person from ever being able to possess a gun. Dangerous offenses are usually those in which a weapon was used during the commission of a crime or the offense caused someone to suffer serious physical injury.
- Serious Offenses - A person must wait at least ten years after completing probation or being discharged from prison for a serious offense before applying to have their right to own or possess a firearm restored. Serious offenses are defined in A.R.S. 13-706 and include homicide, sex offenses, aggaravted assaults, burglaries, robberies, etc.
You should be aware that possession of a firearm by a convicted felon who has not restored their gun rights is a class 4 felony in Arizona. The offense is referred to as Misconduct Involving Weapons and can be punishable by probation or up to fifteen years in prison, depending on an individual's criminal record. Consequently, anyone convicted of a felony must be certain that their right to possess a firearm has been restored before they take control of a gun.