Consequences of a Felony Conviction

Crimes in North Carolina are divided into two main categories: misdemeanors and felonies. Felonies are for what the state considers more severe crimes, typically but not always involving violence. While a conviction of either one carries serious consequences beyond serving a sentence or paying fines, a felony conviction has a long-lasting impact on your freedom. This impact includes your civil rights, professional career, and even personal relationships.

felon behind bars, who can benefit from federal post-conviction relief

1. Losing Your Civil Rights

In North Carolina, civil rights are lost upon conviction of a felony, but some of these rights can be restored after serving the sentence, though the processes and eligibility may differ.

  • Voting: You cannot vote as a felon while serving your time, whether that is a prison sentence or probation. However, after serving the sentence your rights can be restored by registering to vote, though it would be best to make sure you’re clear with your probation officer. In the past, North Carolina required felons to pay off court debts before restoring their voting rights, but this has since been deemed an unconstitutional barrier to voting.
  • Firearms: People convicted of a felony may not possess firearms, even after serving their time. Firearms may be restored by a pardon. Additionally, firearms may be restored if they have only been convicted of one non-violent felony and no violent misdemeanors, through a court petition process.
  • Serving Public Office:


– vote

-guns (even if non-violent)

Citizenship Rights

Citizenship rights include the right to vote, hold public office, and sit on a jury, which are lost while serving a felony conviction. While some states continue to bar people from these rights after their sentence, in North Carolina they are automatically restored after serving time (including time on probation). The only thing that needs to be done is register to vote again.

Firearm Rights

Many people think you can only lose your firearm rights if you were convicted of a strictly violent crime, but this is not the case. Firearm rights are lost when convicted of any felony, but unlike voting, these rights are not automatically restored after serving the sentence. One way these rights can be restored is with a pardon, though this is rare. If a person was only convicted of a single non-violent felony and no violent misdemeanors, they may petition the court for firearm rights restoration.

2. Losing Federal and State Assistance

A felony conviction can also disqualify you from federal or state assistance and programs, such as student loans, food stamps, Medicaid, and more. This is in spite of the fact that felons could benefit from these programs the most to help them reintegrate into society.

While there are still other programs and groups who try to assist felons in acclimating to public life again, being cut off from federal aid can certainly make life more difficult.

3. Barring You From Desired Employment

Finding work if tough after being released from prison, especially if you’ve served time as a felon. Employers will often ask their job candidates about their criminal history, and some will automatically disqualify people from employment if they have been convicted of a felon. While there are laws that may bar employers from having a blanket policy for rejecting felons, employers have their ways of working around the laws and finding other reasons to justify rejecting someone. After all, employers rarely inform rejected or disqualified candidates why they decided not to hire them.

This can get even more troublesome for various licensed professional disciplines, where all the hard work to obtain that license can be lost upon being convicted of a felony. Lawyers, for example, face the risk of being disbarred. Additionally, certain workplaces have legal justification to disqualify felon candidates, including law enforcement, hospitals, or schools.

4. Deportation for Non-Citizens

Non-citizens may face deportation if they’ve been convicted of a felony, including those who have entered the United States legally.

If you came to the United States without valid legal documentation, a felony conviction is very likely to result in deportation after serving time, and possibly being prevented from returning to the United States for any reason. Even if you are a lawful resident but non-citizen, some felony crimes can put you at risk for deportation, including:

  • Drug crimes
  • Firearm crimes
  • Domestic Violence
  • Aggravated Felonies (e.g. murder, rape, sexual abuse of minors, and some other violent crimes)


5. Impacts on Day-to-Day and Personal Life

Beyond legal and work ramifications, your everyday life can be heavily impacted by a felony conviction. This includes some long-term ramifications of various felony convictions, such as sex-offender registration, drug or alcohol treatment programs, or other forms of increased surveillance. Additionally, your relationships could be significantly harmed, whether it is your family, spouse, or friends distancing from you or severing ties completely.

Facing a Felony Charge in North Carolina?

Due to the ongoing effects of a felony conviction in North Carolina, we encourage you to seek the guidance of skilled attorneys. We have been very successful defeating prosecutions both at trial and in many instances prior to trial. Additionally, if you feel a plea agreement is your best option, we will work diligently with the prosecution to secure the best outcome for your case.

If you or a loved one had already been convicted of a felony and would like to explore your options for post-conviction relief, whether it be expunging your record or reducing your sentence, we are here to help and answer questions as well.

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