Do You Lose the Right to Vote if You Are Convicted of a Felony in Utah?

Salt Lake City criminal lawyer

Having a criminal record doesn’t mean you lose your ability to vote.  Whether you’re hoping to support Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or someone else entirely, you should know about your right to make your voice heard as an American voter.  In this article, Salt Lake City sex crimes lawyer Darwin Overson will examine how Utah voting rights are affected by a felony conviction, a misdemeanor conviction, being on probation or parole, or being incarcerated in prison.

Can You Vote in Utah if You Are a Former Felon, Current Inmate, or Are on Parole or Probation?

A felony record can be a heavy burden to carry.  Former felons sometimes struggle to find housing or jobs, or face denials when trying to earn professional licenses or join the military.  Being convicted of a violent felony, such as stalking or aggravated sexual assault — as well as being on probation or parole for any felony, including non-violent felonies — will also result in the loss of your Utah gun rights, which are limited by Utah Code § 76-10-503.

A felony conviction can also impact your voting rights as a resident of Utah.  (If you’re looking for information about how voting rights are affected by misdemeanors, scroll down to the next section, which addresses that question in detail.)

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If you are convicted of a felony in Utah, you will lose your right to vote.  This applies under Utah Code § 20A-2-101.5 regardless of whether you are found guilty in state or federal court.  However, the loss is only temporary.  The same statute provides that your right to vote will be restored as soon as you are either:

  • Sentenced to parole, which means you will be released from prison early.
  • Sentenced to probation, which means you will not be incarcerated, but will be required to report to a probation officer for a certain period of time, while following certain rules.
  • Released from prison upon completing a sentence.

Unfortunately, this means inmates who are currently incarcerated for a felony cannot vote.  However, people who are probationers, parolees, or released former felons can vote.

Not only can former felons vote in Utah — they can also run for political office themselves.  However, at least 10 years must pass before a convicted felon regains their right to hold elective office, assuming the person has also paid all of their fines, and has either completed their sentence, completed probation, or been granted parole.  Otherwise, a former felon can run for office after obtaining an expungement.

Restrictions on Holding Office for Defendants Convicted of Sex Crimes

There is one major exception to the law that permits former felons to run for office in Utah.  No person who has been convicted of a grievous sexual offense involving a child may ever hold office as a local school board member, or as a State Board of Education member.

Grievous sexual offenses, which are listed under Utah Code § 76-1-601(6), include:

  • Aggravated Sexual Assault
  • Rape 
  • Object Rape
  • Rape of a Child
  • Object Rape of a Child
  • Sodomy on a Child
  • Forcible Sodomy
  • Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Child

Grievous sexual offenses are also defined to include:

  • Felony attempts to commit any of the crimes on the above list.
  • Similar or equivalent offenses committed outside of Utah.

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How Are Voting Rights Affected by a Misdemeanor Record? 

Misdemeanors are crimes that, while still subject to fines and incarceration, are less serious than felony offenses.  Some examples of misdemeanors in Utah include:

  • DUI (Driving Under the Influence)
  • Graffiti Vandalism (Damage Under $1,000)
  • Marijuana Possession (Under 1 Pound)
  • Simple Assault
  • Theft (Value Under $1,500)

Unlike felonies, which can result in many decades of prison time, sentencing for misdemeanors is limited to one year in jail at maximum.  Under Utah Code § 20A-2-101.3, a person who is convicted of a misdemeanor in Utah (referred to as a “misdemeanant”) regains his or her right to vote as soon as either:

  • The person is sentenced to probation, as provided by Utah Code § 20A-2-101.3(2)(a).  A misdemeanant does not need to complete probation before their voting privileges are restored.
  • The person successfully completes the jail term they were sentenced to.

Like former felons, people with misdemeanor records can go on to hold political office in Utah.  The waiting period for misdemeanants is shorter than it is for prior felons: five years from the date of conviction instead of 10, again assuming all fines have been paid.

Arrested in Utah? Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney in Utah for Help

If you or one of your loved ones has been charged with a felony or misdemeanor in Utah, there could be serious consequences — not only for your voting privileges, but upon every aspect of your life.  You could receive huge fines, be sentenced to probation, or even lose your freedom altogether.  You will also receive a criminal record, which can make it extremely difficult to find a place to work or live, even after you have completed your sentence.

Don’t wait to seek legal help if a family member was arrested in Salt Lake County.  Call a Utah criminal defense attorney at the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 758-2287 to set up a free and confidential legal consultation today.