Can Felons Run for Public Office?

Some felons have always wanted to run for public office; whether they have their sights on the presidency or a local county position, are they allowed to run?

Can Felons Hold Public Office?

Before we discuss if a felon can run for public office, it is important to know if they can even hold public office. It all depends on what office the felon is running for, if the office is a state position such as a state senator or attorney general, they may be deemed ineligible to hold the office depending on the felony they committed. For example, if the felony the person was convicted of involved any form of dishonesty or bribery, they are not allowed to run.

Every state has their own laws pertaining to what public office a felon is able to hold. Some states are much stricter than others, for example, some states even prohibit felons hold a state job, nevertheless a public office. It is a good idea to consult a lawyer within your state to find out what public offices a felon is able to hold and run for.

The laws vary on a state level, but at a federal level, felons are able to hold public office and have federal jobs. Felons are able to become senators, representatives, servicemembers and even become the next president. There is no federal law declaring that felons are unable to hold a federal public office.

Just because a felon is able to hold a federal public office does not mean that they will be able to keep it. In the past there have been many motions to expel members of congress due to their felony charges, deeming that the charges make them “unfit to serve”. A large majority of these motions came from a purely political standpoint but having a felony can be a point of contention among voters/other members of the governmental body. It is important to note that the motion to remove a member from congress because they are “unfit to serve” can apply to anything, not just felonies. Any member of congress can make the motion to expel another member of congress because they are “unfit to serve”. It is rare, but it is possible.

Can Felons Run for Public Office?

In order for someone to hold a public office, they must be elected by the people to serve the role, and since it has now been established that felons are allowed to hold public office, the next step is finding out if felons can legally run for office.

Felons are able to campaign for public office. There are no rules that do not allow a felon to run for office, nor are there any laws that restrict a felon’s right to promote their ideas. Running for office could be considered by a handful of legal scholars as a protected right under the first amendment. Running for office is all about the promotion of your ideas, about voicing your opinion to the public. The ability to give your opinion in a peaceful manner is protected under the first amendment, so by not allowing felons the right to run for office (and express their opinion in the process) could be deemed as a violation of their freedom of speech, prompting a legal battle.

The only time a felon is unable to run for office is if there are unable to hold the office if elected. This is almost exclusively seen at a state level due to how each state has different restrictions on felons holding certain positions.

How to Run for Public Office.

Running for public office can be exciting and rewarding, it can change someone’s life and the community they live in. The first step in running for public office is deciding what public office you want to run for. Do you want to be the next president? The next senator? What about the next Attorney General? All of these positions are available for felons to run for so long as they meet the individual qualification of each position, which is the next step.

The second stage of running for public office, once you have decided on which office you want to hold, is to determine if you are eligible. A felony does not make someone ineligible, but someone’s place of birth or citizenship status can automatically rule someone out.

Let’s examine the requirements to become a United States Senator for example. The basic qualifications and requirements that must be met are.

  • 30 years of age
  • Being a U.S. citizen for at least nine years.
  • Be of resident status of the state you are representing.

These three qualifications are the “big three” for hopeful senators to have. If you find that you do not meet one of these qualifications, then you are unable to run to be a senator until that qualification is met. In the meantime, you may want to consider a public office that has less qualifications.

The qualifications for holding public office cannot be changed on an individual basis. The only way the qualifications can be changed is by the legal process of altering them. If someone does not meet the requirements then they are unable to hold that particular office, simple as that.

After someone has determined they are able to hold the public office they are looking to run for, the next step is to get your political parties support. In order to run for office, you must have the right to run under a political party, which is given by the political party itself. For example, if someone wants to run for the Presidency, they must declare if they will be running as a Democrat or Republican (or another party).

Once the support of the political party of your choice is given, it is time to start hiring. Assemble a campaign team of managers, public relations experts, marketing gurus, lawyers and event planners. These people will help you compete the next stage, getting signatures.

Getting signatures is one of the hardest stages of running for office. Every office has a different number of required signatures a candidate must get in order to officially be in the race. For the presidency, the number is 30,000, for senators, the number is only 1,000. Many candidates take to door knocking or throwing events to gather these signatures. Once the signatures are gathered, it is time to officially become a candidate in the eyes of the law. Once the requested files have been submitted, your name will be on the ballot for the election.

The last step (and the most fun) is to officially start campaigning. A successful political campaign hosts a variety of events so that members of the community can better know what the candidate stands for and who they are as a person. Town halls where community members can ask the candidate direct questions are very popular, along with meet and greets. Raising money is very important, without money, a political campaign cannot exist. Use these events as a way to raise money and receive donations to your campaign.

And there you have it, a comprehensive guide to running for office. As always, check with a lawyer to determine your eligibility before investing in your campaign.


Can someone become president with a criminal record?

Running for the office of the presidency is very difficult. Having a criminal record will not make your campaign bid any easier. It is possible to become President of the United States with a criminal record, but depending on the crimes committed, impeachment and removal from office may occur if Congress deems the president to be “unfit to serve” due to these crimes.

Can felons lose their U.S. citizenship?

The only way for felons (or any other American citizen) to lose their status as a citizen is either by officially renouncing their citizenship or commit acts of treason against the United States government. So no, felons cannot lose their U.S. citizenship purely on the basis of their status as a felon.

How many terms can a United States senator serve?

Currently, senators face no term limits, meaning that as long as they are re-elected, they can continue to serve in congress. The same goes for House of Representative members, as long as they get re-elected, they are able to keep serving.

House of Representative members serve two-year terms while Senators serve six-year terms.

How many terms can a State Senator serve in California?

State senators in California are limited to a maximum of 12 years of service in the state legislature. This means that senators are only able to serve three terms since each term is three years long. Many state senators move on to run for other public offices once they have met their term limits.

Thank You for reading our article! Would you ever want to run for public office? If so, what office would you like to run for? Let us know by writing a comment down below!


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