Returning Citizen

Last Modified: 07/26/2022

Community Legal Services (CLS) can provide legal assistance to eligible customers who believe their right to vote may have been affected by a criminal conviction. The Voting Rights community refer to these individuals as Returning Citizens.

In 2018, Floridians voted to pass Constitutional Amendment 4 with 64.55% of the vote. This Constitutional Amendment proposed to restore the voting rights of Returning Citizens once they had completed their sentences, with the notable exception of those individuals convicted of homicide or sexual offenses.

In 2019, the Florida State Legislature passed a law that required that Returning Citizens must complete “all terms of sentence” including full payment of restitution, or any fines, fees, or costs resulting from conviction before they can regain their right to vote.

CLS recognizes that denial of an individual’s right to vote is a time-sensitive issue and the need for help is immediate. If you would like assistance to determine the status of your voting rights, you should contact the CLS HELPline at 1-800-405-1417 to obtain free legal advice about these issues. Also please review the following topics which may assist you in determining the status of your voting rights and what actions you can take to ensure your right to vote.

VOTING RIGHTS

If you are a Returning Citizen and unsure about you have been convicted of a felony or owe a financial obligation, a good place to start is obtaining an advisory opinion. The advisory opinion comes from Florida’s Department of State, Division of Elections, which is a distinct entity from the local supervisor of elections. You can find the form and address to send the form at this link: Request for Advisory Opinion. It is unclear how long the State will take to respond to such requests so it might be prudent to also do your own investigation into any fines, fees, or costs owed. Information about this process is found in the following link. If you are a Returning Citizen and know you have been convicted of felony offenses, owe money, and in what counties those convictions took place, you may want to move forward with the investigation without seeking an advisory opinion.

When Floridians voted to restore the voting rights of most people convicted of felonies, specific exceptions to the amendment were made to individuals convicted of homicide or sexual offenses. The following is a list of offenses that, if convicted of, you would not be eligible for restore your right to vote.

Terrorism

Murder (782.04(1), (2), or (3))

Killing Unborn Child by Injuring Mother

Sexual Misconduct on Person with Developmental Disabilities

Sexual Misconduct on Person at Mental Health Facility

Kidnapping Children Under 13

False Imprisonment Child Under 13

Luring or Enticing a Child

Human Trafficking

Sexual Battery (794.011 excluding paragraph (10))

Statutory Rape
Lewd or Lascivious offenses

Video Voyeurism

Lewd or Lascivious on Elderly or Disabled Person

Sexual Performance by Child

Showing Obscene Material to Minor

Traveling to Meet a Minor (847.0135 excluding paragraph (6))

Transmission of Child Pornography

Transmission of Obscene Materials to Minors

Selling or Buying of Minors, Racketeering (if sexual activity involved)

Sexual Offense Against Mentally Ill or Intellectually Disabled

Sexual Offense Against Juvenile in Detention Center

Sexual Misconduct by Psychotherapist

Sexual Cyberharassment

Female Genital Mutilation

Felony Prostitution

Offenses Against Students by Authority Figure

Incest

Distribution of Sexual Materials to or of Minors

Abuse of Dead Human Body

Sexual Offense by Private Corrections Officer (944.35(3)(b)2)

Sexual Offenses by Detention Facility Employees and Inmates

OR any offense similar to those above from another state

If convicted of any of the “murder” or “felony sexual offenses” above then the Returning Citizen is disqualified, and their only recourse to restore their voting rights would be to apply for clemency through the governor’s office. If you need to apply for clemency, you may find the information here: Florida Commission on Offender Review.

A person’s right to vote can only be removed by a felony conviction under the Florida Statutes. If you are a Returning Citizen and unsure of whether you were adjudicated guilty, you can go to your local courthouse and ask the Clerk of Court what their records reflect and ask for a copy of the Judgement and Sentence for any conviction. The Judgement and Sentence should contain whether the Returning Citizen was adjudicated guilty of a felony offence. If you are unsure if the offense was a felony, locate the statute number for the crime and look up the statute online or at your local library.

The following situations are NOT felony convictions:

An adjudication of guilt as to a misdemeanor offense;

An adjudication of delinquency in juvenile court, whether misdemeanor or felony;

A withhold of adjudication of a felony and probation was successfully completed; or

A pre-trial intervention or diversion program resulting in dismissal of charges.

The following special circumstances would be considered a felony conviction:

An adjudication of guilt as to a felony offense as a result of a revocation of probation, even if there was originally a withhold of adjudication given at the time of original sentencing;

An adjudication of guilt as to a felony of offense as a minor, if the minor was prosecuted in adult Court;

A person who failed a pre-trial intervention or diversion program and there was an adjudication of guilt as a result; or

Any similar charge from another state that would be a felony in the state of Florida.

If you would like assistance to determine the status of your voting rights, you should contact the CLS HELPline at 1-800-405-1417 to obtain no cost legal advice about these issues.

When the Florida State Legislature passed legislation to establish the rules under which a Returning Citizen may register or re-register to vote, the government required that the Returning Citizens must complete “all terms of sentence” including full payment of restitution, or any fines, fees, or costs resulting from the conviction before they can regain their right to vote. An attempt to try to register to vote when not eligible to vote could result in further criminal prosecution for voter fraud, so it is of the utmost importance that the Returning Citizen obtain accurate information before they attempt to register.

If the Returning Citizen is unsure whether they still owe money to the Court or to the former victim in the form of restitution, they should go to the County Clerk or Court where they were convicted and request information about their sentence, ask for a certified judgement and sentence, and an accounting of any monies owed.

Remember each county has a separate Clerk’s website that may provide information. A list of the County Clerk’s offices can be reached at this link: Clerk of Courts.

If restitution is owed to a former criminal victim and it cannot be paid, the Returning Citizen is in a very difficult position. As a payee a former victim could sign a notarized statement waiving their right to restitution or stating that restitution has been satisfied. However, it can be very painful to both the Returning Citizen and former victim to be reminded of that time in their life, so discretion is encouraged. If such a statement is obtained, the Returning Citizen should go to the Court and file a motion to Determine Financial Obligation and attach the statement. If you are unable to pay your other financial obligations, please review the section on “Court Actions.”

If the Returning Citizen is unable to pay their financial obligations, they should file one of the following two motions:

Motion to Determine Financial Obligations: If the Clerk is unable to assist the Returning Citizen in determining what financial obligations are still owed, the Returning Citizen may file this motion in all relevant criminal cases so the Court can clarify what is owed.

Motion to Modify Sentence: If the Returning Citizen cannot pay the financial obligations owed, the Returning Citizen may file this motion to reduce or convert the obligations to community service.

If you would like advice on filing such a motion, you should contact the CLS HELPline at 1-800-405-1417 to obtain free legal advice about these issues.

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