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What are the Issues with Employment for a Criminal Felon?

What are the Issues with Employment for a Criminal Felon?

While being deemed a criminal felon may certainly pose a slew of problems while searching for job opportunities after release from prison, that does not go to say, under any means, that it is impossible for a criminal felon to find employment. 
In fact, the range of positions available in the workforce that do not question whether or not an individual has a criminal felony record is fairly extensive and, as a general rule, unless an employer is given a direct reason to inquire about past criminal offenses, they usually will not do so.
Even if the question is asked, as long as the conviction occurred over five years ago, getting employed will often not cause any major hindrances unless the conviction has a direct connection to the job at hand or if it poses a reasonable risk. For example, former bank robbers and individuals convicted of fraud crimes will most likely not be hired in a bank, just like sex offenders will not be permitted to work around children.
With that said, if a recently released criminal felon has his or her mind set on a specific career, there will certainly be employment limitations. While the education of a felon will sometimes override such limitations in the best case scenarios, most felony convictions may prevent criminal felons from obtaining the following types of jobs: 
As a licensed professional, such as a nurse, lawyer, teacher, taxi or bus driver, etc.; 
Jobs working around children, almost definitely if the crime committed was of a sexual nature or committed on a minor; 
Jobs in the health field;
Jobs working in law enforcement; 
Jobs working with firearms or other potentially dangerous devices;
Jobs working in establishments that have objects of significant value, like a bank or jewelry store.
While this is mainly a generalization, unless states or major corporations have specific job restrictions pertaining to felony convictions, ultimately an employer will be responsible for making the decision of whether or not to hire a former criminal felon. If the education of a felon is of particular use to a specific job, the possibilities available drastically increase.
Many State and Federal agencies, like the USPS, will also often look past a felony conviction, holding the education of a felon of higher value than the criminal history of the individual. Small business owners and businesses which hire “independent contractors,” like construction workers, gardeners, painters, or other forms of general labor, regardless of the education of a felon, are also more apt to hire former convicts.
Furthermore, for a criminal felon who has spent a great deal of time in jail, it might actually have been possible for the education of a felon to be furthered, such that when the criminal felon leaves jail, his or her education will not impede him or her that much.

Types of Felonies You Should Know

Types of Felonies You Should Know

As a broad grouping, felony convictions are suggestive of some of the heaviest and most serious crimes committed across the nation. In contrast to misdemeanors, like petty theft, public intoxication, or indecent exposure, which are considered far less severe than felonies, and juvenile crimes, for which minors are the culprits, felony charges predominantly refer to both violent and non-violent crimes committed for which there was a reasonable intent to violate, or an actual deliberate violation, of criminal law. 
 
 
A felony also usually implies that at least one year of imprisonment (but often more) must be served as punishment and that a hefty fine must be paid. Additionally, convicted felons will often have many rights revoked, such as the right to bear arms, the right to vote, and the right to serve in the military. Trouble finding insurance or a job in the workforce after release from prison may also pose problems for convicted felons. While some felony convictions may, in time, be expunged (or cleared) if there is no prior history of a criminal offense, most states will have individualized laws pertaining to this issue.
 
 
Violent Felony Charges
 
 
Ranging from murder and kidnapping to armed robbery, violent felonies are classified by the use of violence, or in some cases, by the threat of violence alone. If an offender is capable of following through with a crime, whether the initial threat is successfully carried out or not usually holds no relevance when issuing a felony conviction.
 
 
Overall, the main classifications of violent felonies, according to the U.S. Justice Department, are murder crimes, rape crimes, robbery crimes, and simple and aggravated assault crimes. Aggravated assault, or a violent crime committed by an individual most often possessing a potentially deadly weapon, is the most prevalent of all violent felonies. Sometimes, the mere suggestion of serious harm can be enough to make the distinction.
 
 
Succeeding aggravated assaults are robberies, which are the second most common violent felonies committed. Even if there is no direct contact involved, a crime may still be categorized as being violent in nature. For instance, DUI offenses associated with causing serious accidents in which at least one person was injured or killed may be brought to trial as a violent felony as well.
 
 
The majority of non-violent felony convictions, although seemingly less severe, often hold similar punishments as their violent counterparts, especially if the crime committed is on a grand scale. In general, though, non-violent crimes are separated by their lack of physical violence. Most property offenses, like burglary, vandalism, drug trafficking, possession, and distribution offenses, and "white-collar" corporate crimes, like money laundering, bribery and counterfeiting, are included on nearly all non-violent State felony lists.
 
 
Depending on whether or not an offender has committed a crime before, and also on the severity of the crime, some non-violent felony charges may lead to sentences even longer than violent felony convictions. Other non-violent felonies include, but are not limited to, blackmail, the creation and placement of a false bomb, computer tampering, and promoting gambling and prostitution, among many others.
 
 
Penalties Classified Into Tiers
 
 
While each State will ultimately have its own specific set of violent and non-violent felony classifications for the most part, felony categories are separated amongst numerical and alphabetical classes or degrees. Class A, Class 1, and first degree felonies typically bear punishment similarities, just like Class B, Class 2, and second degree felonies, and Class C, Class 3, and third degree felonies are fairly similar groupings. Often, capital punishment or murder felony charges will be placed in a category all their own.
 
 
In terms of Federal felony classifications, crimes are divided by Class A through Class E charges, with each holding a fine up to $250,000, depending, of course, on the severity of the crime and whether an offender has any prior criminal records. As a general rule, Federal punishments are often much harsher than felonies which are convicted on a State level.

Understanding the General Rights of Convicted Felons

Understanding the General Rights of Convicted Felons

Aside from legalities, the social stigma attached to someone who is a convicted felon will result in a difficult adjustment to life after prison. Trouble finding work is extremely prevalent amongst many convicted felons, especially within professions that involve working around potentially dangerous materials or substances, children, or even in large corporations, which often do not want the liability attached to hiring someone who is a convicted felon.
Most importantly, depending on the State in which a person is convicted, felons may have to wait several years after their allotted sentence is completed before having privileges reinstated, particularly if the conditions based around their conviction were of a larger magnitude. In some cases, a State may require a convicted felon to formally request their civil rights back, often through a lengthy and complex process.

Felony: Crimes Included

Felony: Crimes Included

In some of the earliest documented felony records, felonies connoted grave crimes punishable by a forfeiture of all of an offender’s assets, or in the worst-case scenario, death. Derived from the words “felon” and “felonie,” which in old French were used to describe a wicked individual or a wicked action, respectively, the implication of felonies has remained somewhat the same in that it is still one of the greatest criminal offenses possible within the legal system. Since those first felony records, however, a broad range of different classifications have been assigned for felonies, which first puts them into non-violent classes and degrees  
In general, felonies are descriptive of serious crimes, both violent or non-violent in nature, which result in a punishment of fines, and in nearly all cases, a prison sentence of at least one year. Other punishments, like community service, probation, rehabilitation programs, and a loss of certain rights are also commonly affixed to felonies according to felony records. In addition, felonies are distinguished by what many criminal lawyers will term a”mens rea,” or guilty mind, associated with a particular case. What this means in the simplest sense is that the crime in question was performed with a good amount of reasonable intent. Thus, felonies are only genuinely added to felony records under certain specific conditions.
Once convicted of a felony, offenders’ felony records will often not be expunged or cleared for some time, resulting in a wide range of problems for many within the workforce. In contrast to misdemeanor crimes, which in many ways are considered the less severe of all criminal crimes committed- like public intoxication, for instance- many felonies are outlawed by both State and Federal governments, so the severity of the crime immediately increases. 
Most convictions, though, are administered on a State-level since the majority of crimes committed have occurred within the boundaries of a State, and not on Federal soil or regarding Federal well-being. Felony records, thus, extend on both the Federal and the State levels.

A History of Felonies

A History of Felonies

Even though the world’s first documented codes of laws, the Code of Ur-Nammu, surfaced as early as 2100 B.C. in the ancient Sumer civilization of the Mesopotamia region (modern-day Iraq), the history of felony charges within the American legal system can ultimately be traced back to the earliest developments of common law in England, sometime around the 14th Century. 
As a system built on evolving societal principles and past court decisions alike, common law is a fine balance of the rights of individuals and the interest of a greater community, one which has the possibility of being shaped and reshaped with time. It is a system based not on binding written legislation, like civil or statutory law, but rather on court cases and precedent, which take into account the circumstance of both the case at hand and the resolutions of similar cases which have preceded it. In this sense, each case, essentially, becomes part of the greater body of law.  
Felony charges were some of the first to be adapted into this legal structure, and originally a felony was used to describe a serious crime that resulted in a forfeiture of all assets, or in some cases, death. The term “felony” itself is taken from the old French words “felon” and “felonie,” which implied a wicked person or an act of wickedness, respectively. 
While the exact implications associated with a felony may have certainly changed since felony charges were first issued, a felony has altogether remained somewhat the same in that it is considered the most serious of all crimes within the legal system and it is usually based on the willful intent to commit a crime. The first felony charges, in fact, were often described as crimes of “mens rea,” a Latin phrase used to imply a “guilty mind.” 
Today, a felony is  used to constitute a major criminal offense that results in over a year in prison or capital punishment, a monetary fine, or most often, both. Other punishments, such as community service, probation, mandatory rehabilitation programs, or a loss of rights- such as the right to vote or serve in the military- are also commonly affixed to felony charges. Less severe criminal offenses with less severe punishments attached are called misdemeanors and such charges usually imply that the fine is lower and prison time does not exceed one year. 
As is the nature of most crimes, each felony case will have a set of specific conditions which ultimately decides what punishment is accorded to the law offender. A rape and murder felony, for instance, will naturally hold a different punishment than an attempted burglary felony, much like an assault will be treated differently than a drug possession charge.
In the broadest sense, the severity of conviction is first based on whether or not the felony had any violence associated with it. For this reason, felony charges are separated into those crimes which are violent and those which are non-violent. The latter typically includes property offenses, like fraud, vandalism, and forgery, drug offenses, for both possession and distribution, and corporate, or white-collar, crimes. Violent felony charges, on the other hand, are comprised of manslaughter and murders, attempted murders, rapes, sexual and aggravated assaults, arson, armed robbery, and various degrees of theft. 
When there is an initial report of a crime, both violent and nonviolent, and authorities follow through with an arrest, police processing, and any bail proceedings, felony charges are officially brought against an individual during an arraignment or the first criminal court appearance. During this arraignment, the offender, called the “defendant,” will be supplied with a lawyer. 
During this preliminary stage, bail is either set or dismissed, Constitutional rights and the felony charges are read to the defendant, and a date for the next court appearance is determined. If bail is available, a bond court decides the exact amount a defendant must pay in order to be released from jail while the felony charges are under investigation. 
During the next stage- a settlement conference, or often called a preliminary hearing- the defendant’s lawyer works with authorities to either try and reach a plea bargain, or to get information for the defendant’s defense before the pretrial hearing, during which time the prosecutor provides enough reasonable evidence to a judge to either support and go through with a felony charge, or have the case dismissed altogether based on insufficient “evidentiary standards.” It is during this pretrial or preliminary hearing that felony charges can be dropped to far less severe misdemeanor charges. 
If felony charges persist, however, a second arraignment, a pretrial conference, and finally, motion hearings- all of which further establish both the defendant’s plea and trial date, as well as any settlement options, new “discoveries” of the case, and potential witnesses- are set. Once this lengthy process is complete, only then does the actual felony trial occur.
Be it a violent or non-violent felony charge, both types are often further divided into more subsets, either by degrees or classes, based on both the severity of the crime committed and/or on the punishment attached. For the most part, each State typically assigns different felony levels, since most felony sentences are administered at a State-level. 
New Jersey, for instance, separates felonies (the term felony is actually replaced by “criminal offense”) by first degree criminal offense charges through those which are considered fourth degree offenses. In contrast, Wisconsin makes Class A through Class I felony distinctions, while Virginia State courts choose Class 1 through Class 6 classifications.
In terms of Federal law, the felony classifications are assigned a letter grade based primarily on the length of imprisonment. The classes are as follows:
     Class A felony: capital punishment (the death penalty) or life imprisonment; fines up the $250,000
     Class B felony: imprisonment time is 25 years or more; fines up the $250,000
     Class C felony: imprisonment time is between 10 and 25 years; fines up the $250,000
     Class D felony: imprisonment time is between five and ten years; fines up the $250,000
     Class E felony: imprisonment time is between one and five years; fines up the $250,000 
If the prison time is below one year, the crimes are then considered misdemeanors, which range from Class A misdemeanors (six months to one year in prison) to infractions, which may have as little as five days in prison, or no prison time at all. In more recent years, the United States Federal Sentencing Commission has been established to ease in the application of such felony charges, and since 1984, it has adapted Federal 
Sentencing Guidelines for use in court cases. 
In the simplest sense, such guidelines are there to avoid problems which have arisen with “indeterminate sentences” of the past, for which parole officers, not judges, would give far “looser” felony sentences- such as a “10 to 20 year sentence” instead of an absolute 15 year sentence- after the actual conviction. With the Sentencing Guidelines, felony charges are basically given more definite imprisonment terms. 
As mentioned above, the majority of felony charges are generally handled through State courts since every State will have its own set of laws regarding felonies. That is not to say that Federal felony convictions are rare by any means. In fact, the main disparity can sometimes be as little as a crime being committed on Federal property as opposed to State property, or being arrested by Federal officers as opposed to State or local authorities. 
As a broad separation, felonies most often prosecuted on a State level include, but are not limited to, murder, rape, possession of controlled substances, robbery, shoplifting, domestic violence, and any repeat “under the influence” charges. Federal felony prosecutions, on the other hand, include crimes like bank or mail fraud, bank robbery, smuggling any controlled substance (usually in large quantities), and bribery of public officials, among others.
Although it may not ring true for every case, Federal felony charges often receive much harsher punishments than State-level rulings. In addition, Federal felonies do not have the possibility of being expunged, or cleared, from a convicted offender’s criminal record. While State felony charges have varying expungement rules, most will allow a first-time felony charge to be expunged over time. 
Depending on whether a State has a “three-strike law” enacted in legislation, certain repeat felony offenders, specifically ones which are convicted of a felony for the third time, receive mandatory 25 year imprisonment sentences. Depending on the severity of the crime committed, of course, this number could be far more. 
Felony charges, even those with the most minimal punishments, can often hold grave consequences for life after prison as well, even for first-time offenders. 
When introduced back into society as free men and women, a felony conviction will sometimes pose a major problem when looking for a new job, especially with any workplace involving children, guns or explosive material, or most large companies, which often don’t want the liability of hiring a charged felon. Some insurance companies may also deny coverage to felons, making the adjustment to life out of prison that much harder.

Felon

Felon

The crimes that consider a person a felon are appropriately classified by the United States Federal Legal Code as felonies. A felony carries a mandatory prison sentence as its most basic or minor form of punishment. Such wrongdoings are held separately from misdemeanors or petty crimes that often deal with minor infractions associated with finances or property.
A felony is a wrongdoing that is serious nature and often enshrouded in violence or the act of inflicting physical harm on an individual. All felonies are overheard by court systems through the interpretation of criminal law. This is held in contrast to misdemeanors which are administered through civil law trials.
As a result of the dangers and seriousness associated with the violations, a person will be considered a felon if he or she has previously been convicted of a felony crime. Examples of felonies include the following wrongdoings: all forms of murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, extortion, embezzlement, grand theft auto, rape, and arson. This list, which is a sample of felonies, details the actions that an individual must be found guilty of to be considered a felon.

The Laws Behind Aggravated Felonies and Deportation

The Laws Behind Aggravated Felonies and Deportation

The National Immigration and Nationality Act is the primary foundation for all deportation proceedings that occur within the U.S. First signed into law in 1952, the Act, also called the Walter-McCarren Act after its main proponents, Congressman Francis Walter and Senator Pat McCarran, has seen a slew of amendments in the past decades, the majority of which have been aimed to both limit immigration and enhance the effectiveness of deportation proceedings, regardless of whether actual felonies have been committed or whether there are reasonable grounds for deportation. 
 
 
Although alterations are constantly being proposed, for the current time the law encompasses about 50 titles concerning felony and felonies for immigration, among other things, which are further divided into chapters, subchapters, and sections, each of which pertains to a different specific area of immigration law. 
 
 
To be exact, Subchapter 1, of Chapter 12, "Immigration and Nationality", of Title 8, "Aliens and Nationality" -or Section 101(a)(43)- is responsible for defining the precise terms of what is considered an "aggravated felony. 
 
 
Since the original development of the Aggravated Felony Provision in 1988, which upon creation only regarded murder, drug-trafficking, and fire-arm trafficking as deportable crimes, the list of actions criminalized by immigration enforcement has grown to include a wide variety of other offenses, some of which are not even considered misdemeanors, let alone felonies, by most State laws. 
 
 
With the formation of the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty and Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Acts of 1996, the list has become even that much more severe. Even though every case is ultimately subject to debate, in most cases any non-citizen- even a person with an authorized green card- which has entered the U.S. illegally will have virtually no defense since the Aggravated Felony Provision clearly states that all persons who have entered or re-entered the United States in a manner considered illegal will, under the law, be subject to deportation. 
 
 
While a lawyer specialized in aggravated felonies will undoubtedly increase the chances of an alien arguing his or her case successfully, due to the fact that those charged with an aggravated felony must supply their own lawyer, those who fail to do so because of insufficient funds will often not be able to have their charges lowered, which will automatically lead to a permanent exile from the U.S.

What are the Voting Rights of Convicted Felons?

What are the Voting Rights of Convicted Felons?

When an individual is convicted of a felony, certain civil rights are immediately taken away upon the conviction, including the all-important right to vote. Specifically, this practice of denying suffrage is known as disenfranchisement, or for criminals specifically, felon disenfranchisement.
In the United States, this long-held custom bans roughly five million Americans from partaking in the voting process every year. While disenfranchisement has been associated with incarceration for some time, even as early as the development of the ancient Roman legal system which considered all serious crimes subject to a “civil death” of sorts, typically the intention of felon disenfranchisement is to take away voting rights of individuals only while they are incarcerated, but to reinstate them once their dues have been rightly paid.
Under most State laws, felon disenfranchisement can be annulled by submitting an official written request to voting officials of a State proving that they meet all the conditions of disenfranchisement revocation. That is, all monetary fines must have been paid and the terms of a prison sentence, including a good record of parole and probation if it applies, have been completed. A small fine may also have to be paid. In general, though, if a criminal has successfully completed his or her sentence, voting rights will automatically be restored and all an ex-felon must do is register to vote.
Some states, however, are far less lenient when it comes to the topic. Virginia and Kentucky, for instance, impose life disenfranchisement for convicted felons, despite constantly being advocated against by civil rights activists who claim it as discriminatory and an extended violation of the Voting Rights Act. Other states, like Maine and Vermont, on the other hand, do not adhere to felon disenfranchisement at all, allowing the majority of their incarcerated prisoners take part in the voting process.
As is evident, disenfranchisement rules will vary greatly from State to State, so consulting voting officials in the specific State that an individual has been convicted of their felony in will be the first step to take in felon disenfranchisement repeals.
 

What are the Criticisms of Felon Disenfranchisement?

What are the Criticisms of Felon Disenfranchisement?

Civil rights proponents make their main argument against felon disenfranchisement fairly simple: both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution clearly state that no citizens of the United States, regardless of whether or not they are convicted felons, shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property,” including the right to vote.
Opponents of the most harsh of all State felon disenfranchisement laws, like those of Virginia and Kentucky, which make felon disenfranchisement a permanent revocation, likewise claim that such suffrage suppression is also a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which notes that “excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted” for criminal offenses.
Using these Bill of Rights clauses as the foundation of their debate, critics of felon disenfranchisement laws are firm in their belief that in many ways, denying voting rights to “felons,” which statistics show are anywhere from 60 to 70% racial and ethnic minorities, is not only prejudice, but a means of socio-political exclusion in disguise. In the simplest sense, it has no justified purpose, especially once felons have completed their sentences.
The creation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation enacted, which gave the right to vote to “racial, ethnic, and language minority U.S. citizens”, only further supports the notion that certain State laws are far too strict and discriminatory when it comes to allowing felons the ability to repeal their disenfranchisement. 
Although improvements have indeed been made in past decades regarding the issue, with many states lifting their permanent felon disenfranchisement laws and instead placing restrictions on suffrage for felons, there is still much progress to be made.
The fact that the U.S. is one of the only democratic nations that enforces felon disenfranchisement laws (countries like France, Canada, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Peru, Australia, Israel, and Germany, among many others, all allow suffrage for nearly all of their imprisoned felons) is a testament to the latter statement.

Challenges to Aggravated Felony Charges

Challenges to Aggravated Felony Charges

Aggravated felonies, in the simplest sense, can mean anything. For non-citizens facing such aggravated felony charges, their conviction, based on the regulations surrounding the current Aggravated Felony Provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act, may be decided on as little as whether they initially came to the U.S. legally or illegally, or perhaps, if their public intoxication or drunk-driving misdemeanor charge is considered a “violent crime.”
Due to the lack of a precise definition for the types of aggravated felonies listed under immigration law, a fairly large number of detainees facing felony charges will find that their seemingly minor offense has been left open to interpretation by strict immigration courts. While challenging felony charges brought against an illegal immigrant are not unheard of, and in fact, higher-court judges have quite often criticized the ambiguous nature of the law, in general aggravated felonies will have little defense against them. 
Such gaps in the deportation system are at the forefront of human rights activists’ debates. Many, including law officials, persistently lobby that clearer distinctions between crimes should be made and that greater consideration should be given to those who have already paid the appropriate dues for the mistakes of their past. 
Although proponents of strict immigration and deportation policies will contest that the majority of aggravated felonies are accorded to deserving criminals which pose a very serious threat to the safety of America, the reality is that only 10% of alien detainees have been given felony charges based on violent crimes. 
While that does not necessarily go to say that drug-related crimes, the most prevalent of all aggravated felonies in the prison system, are any less serious. The fact of the matter is that most “deportable” crimes are weighed far heavier than need be, and a long list of prior cases will affirm this. 
For instance: 
In 1989, a woman by the name of Xuan Wilson, who had lived in the U.S. since the age of four, was charged with writing a forged check at a Safeway supermarket. The value of the check was $19.83. In 2003, she was ordered to be deported back to Vietnam, her country of origin, leaving her husband, three children, and mother and father behind. 
Also in 1989, Gerardo Mosquere was deported to Columbia despite having a green card for nearly 30 years for attempting to sell $10 worth of marijuana. 
In 1997, Jesus Collado was detained after returning from a vacation in the Dominican Republic. Due to a statutory rape conviction decades earlier in 1974 when Collado was only 19 years old (he had consensual sex with his underage girlfriend), immigration laws stated that authorities had the right to deport him without a hearing. 
In 2001, Alexander Christopher faced deportation based on petty shoplifting charges that deemed him an an “aggravated felon,” even though his misdemeanor punishments had been completed years earlier. 
In 2010, Qing Hong Wu faced similar deportation based on “criminal alien” felony charges for a series of muggings he was involved in as a youth over 15 years earlier. 
Such examples are not meant to disregard the nature of the crimes committed, though. There are many illegal aliens, in fact, who have a very serious criminal history attached and should be liable to face aggravated felony charges if detained. The main challenges to the law, rather, are both in the lack of clarity in terms of aggravated felonies and in the specific conditions which define “criminal aliens.”