A criminal conviction usually comes with its fair share of woes. These include, but are not limited to, a loss of certain civil liberties. One such liberty is the right to bear arms.
Your gun rights are likely gone if you’ve been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor in Arkansas. But there are ways to restore such rights. And a legal representative like Phil Votaw & Associates can help you navigate the process and determine if you’re eligible for restoration. You may regain your gun rights in one of three ways. Let’s look at each one in depth below:
Expungement means the removal of a felony conviction from your record. To restore your gun rights through this approach, you’ll need to petition the court and prove that you meet specific criteria.
For starters, you must have only been convicted of a single felony or misdemeanor charge. Under the First Offenders Act, you are eligible for expungement if this is your first criminal conviction and you plead guilty. In this case, you may face a community sentence- usually probation. Once your probation is up, you can file for expungement.
You also can’t have any pending criminal charges against you. And you must not have been convicted of a crime that would make you ineligible for expungement under Arkansas law. These include a violent felony, even if it’s your first conviction.
You can file a petition for expungement with the court that convicted you. The judge will then hold a hearing, during which they will consider whether or not to grant your request. If the judge decides in your favor, they will issue an order that sets aside your conviction. This means that, for all intents and purposes, the conviction will be wiped from your record. Then, you will automatically regain your gun rights.
A pardon is an act of forgiveness from the governor that demonstrates you’re deserving of a second chance. Arkansas law allows the governor to pardon offenses, save for treason.
All the same, such pardons are a rarity. In fact, one study shows that the governor’s office rejected 75% of pardon requests. The implication is that you have a one in four chance of receiving a pardon from the governor if you apply. That said, it’s an option you may consider.
However, the chief law enforcement officer in your county must sign off on your application for restoration of your gun rights. Your criminal conviction is then forgiven if you receive a pardon or executive clemency. Thus, you are granted back your gun rights, including your other civil liberties. But, as with expungement, a pardon is inapplicable to convictions involving violent or sexual offenses.
3. Drug Court Program
Sometimes, we make bad choices. And usually, when you’re under the influence of drugs, you are more likely to engage in wrongdoing. As a result, a non-exhaustive list of the minor crimes you may commit includes:
- Drunk driving
- Theft and burglary
- Credit card fraud
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
Provided your crime is non-violent, a competent attorney can plead your case before a judge. If they convince the judge and the prosecutor holds a similar opinion, you will be placed in a drug court diversionary program.
Diversionary programs are designed to get offenders the help they need to turn their lives around. If you complete the program, you stand the chance of getting your criminal record wiped clean. And that usually means restoration of your gun rights. You will, however, be required to stay drug-free and avoid committing other crimes. Otherwise, you might lose your gun rights as quickly as you regain them.
Neither of the options we’ve discussed is a walk in the park. But, it’s certainly possible to have your gun rights restored. All the same, you will need to put in the work, and you might need some help along the way.
For instance, you may need a skilled legal representative familiar with Arkansas law to help you file for expungement or get you into a diversionary program. Besides, the law is constantly changing, so restoring your gun rights may become easier or harder. A lawyer can help you stay up to date on the law and advise you of the best option for your situation. They can also help you collect the necessary evidence and paperwork and represent you in court if necessary.
If you’re eligible and willing to do what it takes, either of the three options could help you get your gun rights back. But if not, don’t despair. You can always wait until your statute of limitations is up before applying for a pardon.