How a Felony Conviction Affects Your Life

clasped hands in handcuffed resting on table

How a Felony Conviction Affects Your Life

Felony crimes can have long-lasting and far-reaching consequences—they can still follow you after you’ve served a prison sentence and paid your fines. 

A felony conviction affects many aspects of your life, including your civil rights, parental rights, and eligibility for government assistance. Convicted felons also face many challenges when it comes to seeking opportunities for employment, education, and housing. 

In this post, we take a deeper look at the impact a felony conviction can have on your life. 

What Rights and Privileges Does a Felon Lose? 

1: Child Custody and Parental Rights

Family courts prioritize the best interest of the child when it comes to determining custody, so a felony conviction can definitely be used against you. For example, if you are convicted of a drug offense, driving under the influence (DUI), or domestic violence, the court may decide that you are an unfit parent. 

As a result, you might not be able to secure custody of your children or even visitation rights. However, it may help your case if you can prove you’ve completed a treatment program and have not been convicted of a felony in the last five years. 

And if you are incarcerated or if you committed a dangerous crime against a child, then you may lose your parental right to raise your child even if you already have custody. 

2: Employment Opportunities

Another significant way a felony conviction can impact your life is by making it extremely difficult to find gainful employment. Arizona state employers, law enforcement, healthcare facilities, and financial institutions all have strict regulations that limit employment opportunities for convicted felons. And other employers may simply choose not to hire you after running a background check.

3: Educational Opportunities

A felony conviction can also pose challenges if you are pursuing higher education or vocational training. While a felony conviction does not automatically disqualify you from applying, it can affect your chances of acceptance. A first-time felony drug conviction can also make you ineligible for student financial aid for one year.  

4: Housing and Rental Applications

Finding suitable housing is more challenging with a felony conviction. Landlords often conduct background checks on potential tenants, and they may deny your application based on your criminal history. 

A felony record might also mean having to pay higher security deposits. If you are convicted of a felony in Arizona, you may need to consider housing programs or community assistance to find a place to live. 

5: Civil Rights

In Arizona, convicted felons lose many civil rights. For example, a felony conviction can cost you the right to vote, join the armed forces, serve on a jury, obtain a commercial driver’s license, or own a gun. This can severely impact your sense of citizenship. 

6: Government Assistance

Being convicted of a felony could also disqualify you from collecting food stamps or social security benefits. Although your children remain eligible for government assistance, they may receive a reduced amount. This is because convicted felons are not counted when determining household size. And even though you are not counted as a member of the household, the state can still include your income when evaluating the amount of assistance your children get.  

Do Felonies Go Away in Arizona?

One common question people have after being convicted of a felony is whether or not they can have it expunged from their record. While a criminal record cannot be expunged in Arizona, it can be sealed or set aside. 

Sealing a Criminal Record

When a criminal record is expunged, your entire criminal history is deleted. This is not an option for adults in Arizona, but you can at least file to have your record sealed as of January 1, 2023. 

If your petition to have your criminal record sealed is granted, your criminal history will be hidden from public view. However, government officials and anyone who can obtain a court order will still be able to see your record. 

You may file a petition to seal records of a criminal offense if you were:

  • Convicted of a criminal offense and completed all of the court’s terms and conditions of the sentence, including paying all debts
  • Charged with a criminal offense and the charge was dismissed or you were deemed not guilty
  • Arrested for a criminal offense but no charges were filed

However, you are ineligible to have your records sealed if you’ve been sentenced as  a dangerous offender or convicted of:

  • Any offense involving a deadly weapon 
  • Any offense where you knowingly injured another person
  • A dangerous crime against a child
  • A serious offense, or a violent or aggravated felony
  • Sex trafficking
  • Any class 2,3,4, or 5 felony offense under Title 13, Chapter 14 or 35.1

Setting Aside a Felony Conviction

Many felonies can also be “set aside.” Setting aside a felony conviction does not erase it from your record, but it can improve your employment, housing, and educational opportunities. 

In most cases, this gives you the right to say “no” when asked about prior convictions on applications. However, the conviction will still show up in background checks.

And not all convictions can be set aside—serious offenses such as violent crimes or sexual offenses involving minors are not eligible. 

To be eligible for setting aside a non-violent offense, you must have:

  • Completed all terms of your sentence, including probation
  • Paid any fines or restitutions
  • Fulfilled any other requirements imposed by the court

Criminal Defense Attorney in Scottsdale, Arizona

If you’re facing a felony conviction, it’s crucial that you secure an experienced criminal defense attorney. At Van Norman Law, our team has nearly 30 years of experience fighting felony convictions in Arizona. We’ll work with you to build a strong defense for your case. If you need legal counsel, give us a call at 480-481-0616 to schedule a free consultation. 


Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (7/13/2023). Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels