Right to Vote & Bear Arms – Not a Right for Some Convicted Felons


Today is election day, a day in which many Americans are taking advantage of their constitutional rights and casting a vote for the politician of their choice, or perhaps casting a vote for the lesser of two evils. While most U.S. citizens believe that rights set forth in the U.S. Constitution apply to all U.S. citizens, such a belief is not correct. Some people lose constitutional rights, such as the right to vote and bear arms, based upon criminal convictions.

Criminal defense attorneys often refer to such additional penalties stemming from criminal convictions as being “collateral consequences.” In some situations, collateral consequences make sense and are thereby expected. For example, a person convicted of a Pennsylvania DUI faces mandatory minimum sentences that include fines and jail time, but a DUI conviction also carries collateral consequences of a license suspension and possibly an ignition interlock requirement. Because a DUI offense involves a vehicle, it makes sense that a penalty would be related to a driving restriction via the imposition of a license suspension.

However, in many other cases, collateral consequences are not necessarily related to the offensive conduct involved. For example, many Penn State students are shocked to discover that routine offenses such as Underage Drinking and Possession of a Small Amount of Marijuana result in a license suspension if the person is convicted. In some cases, the collateral consequences can be avoided if the criminal defendant participates in a first time offender program such as ARD.

Aside from a restriction on driving privileges, some convictions impair a citizens’ constitutional rights. For example, a person convicted in Pennsylvania of a felony drug offense, a second or subsequent offense of DUI in the highest range of penalties, or a simple assault charge involving allegations of domestic violence, faces a lifetime prohibition of carrying firearms. How many Centre County hunters would like to be told that they are not permitted to hunt again because they were convicted of two DUIs?

If you or a loved one is charged with a criminal offense, it is extremely important that you talk with an experienced State College criminal defense attorney for a full case evaluation. In determining how your case should be handled, you must know all of the possible penalties that you are facing, including collateral consequences.