Civil rights are often taken for granted, but what are they? At their simplest level, they are the basic rights of citizens, which, if infringed upon, can give rise to a legal remedy.
More concretely, they’re the things you can do as a member of society, such as the right to participate in society via voting, the right to speak freely regardless of your viewpoint, the right to associate with whomever you please, or the right to possess a firearm for lawful purposes, just to name a few.
Civil rights are vital to a functioning society; in a sense, civilization is what you get from the interlocking rights of individual citizens, and the obligations of other citizens and the government to avoid violating those rights. Sometimes, where those rights come into conflict, one of them must yield to another, and the rule of law is what defines the outcomes in those cases.
These rights are not absolute; under some circumstances, society can withdraw or sharply limit your rights. In Oregon, you lose several important civil rights upon being convicted of a felony, or even some misdemeanors.
The Problem: Loss of Civil Rights After Felony Conviction
After being convicted of a felony, several rights are lost – some temporarily, some permanently. If the felony results in prison time, multiple key rights are suspended until your release, including the right to vote, to serve on a jury, or to hold any public office.
Even after the end of the prison term, some rights remain lost; for instance, the right to sit on a criminal jury is suspended until 15 years after the end of any portion of the felony sentence.
Finally, the right to purchase or possess firearms is permanently lost, by default. That means that someone’s history can impact their rights years or even decades later, so it’s important to know that there are ways to regain those rights.
The Solution: Restoration of Civil Rights
Depending on the type of felony conviction, there are different paths to regaining your civil rights. Sometimes, the case can be set aside (commonly referred to as “expungement”).
However, even when that’s not possible, there are other options, such as petitioning a court for restoration of firearm rights. For instance, convictions such as Burglary in the First Degree or Delivery of Heroin cannot be set aside, but an individual with those convictions could still be eligible to have their firearm rights restored via judicial process.
We can help assess how best to approach regaining your civil rights, whether that be by setting the conviction aside, reducing the severity of the charge, or petitioning the court to reinstate your firearm rights.
Restoration of Civil Rights Application Process
Petitioning a court to restore your firearm rights can be a complicated process. A petition must be filed in the circuit court in the county in which the petitioner resides, along with a $281 filing fee, and a copy of the petition must be served on the local Sheriff.
The petitioner is required to provide the court with “clear and convincing evidence” that they are rehabilitated, and pose no threat to the safety of themself or others. The court will hold a hearing on the issue, at which the petitioner may call witnesses and submit evidence, and the Sheriff may choose to oppose the process, cross-examining witnesses or calling their own witnesses to testify.
An attorney can help make this process easier in multiple ways: they can draft the initial petition to be as compelling as possible, as well as making sure it satisfies all technical requirements. They can also help prepare the petitioner and their witnesses for the hearing, and highlight weaknesses in the Sheriff’s argument.
How Lohrke Law Can Help
Our attorneys have extensive experience with restoration of civil rights. We have helped hundreds of people get their civil rights restored, in virtually every county in Oregon. We take pride in helping people present themselves to the court in the best possible light, and working one-on-one with them to prepare them for the hearing.
Restore Your Rights Today
Many people live with the consequences of their old criminal history, not knowing that there may be another way. If you want to know what your options are, we offer free consultations, and can help you understand which path to regaining your civil rights is the best one, for your individual situation. Our attorneys are committed to helping everyone navigate the legal process as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Who is eligible for the restoration of civil rights?
- You may be eligible as long as your prior convictions do not include any Measure 11 crimes, nor any person felonies involving the use of a deadly weapon.
- Is there a certain period of time that must pass after a felony conviction before civil rights can be restored?
- Under the statute, you cannot apply until one year after the end of your felony sentence. That includes any term of probation or post-prison supervision. More realistically, however, most judges are likely to be skeptical of petitioners until they have been reintegrated into the community for at least a few years.
- What is the process for applying for the restoration of civil rights?
- Draft a petition to restore rights under ORS 166.274.
- File the petition in the Circuit Court in the county in which you reside, paying the required filing fee.
- Serve a copy of the petition on the Sheriff
- File a proof of service with the court.
- Wait for the court to set a hearing date
- Arrange for witnesses to attend the hearing – ideally, people who have known you for a substantial length of time, and who can speak to your good character
- After the hearing, serve a copy of the judge’s order restoring your rights on the Oregon State Police, accompanied by a copy of your fingerprints and a processing fee.
Restoring your rights after a felony conviction can be important in many ways – it expands the range of activities you can legally engage in, restores your status as a fully enfranchised member of the community, and helps make a clean break with your past. Lohrke Law is here to provide effective representation and support through each step of your legal journey.