Nevada Lawmakers Consider Giving Rights Back To Felons - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Nevada Lawmakers Consider Giving Rights Back To Felons

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Two bills are making their way through the state legislature that would give felons the right to vote and serve on juries in both civil and criminal cases.  SB125 and AB181 have already passed their house of origin, and could pass the other chamber by Friday.  Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson is one of the sponsors and says the measure would give felons an incentive to stay out of trouble, and allow them to fully integrate into society.

"If they understand that they have an opportunity to get their rights back, then they also understand what happens if they re-offend and lose that right." Frierson, D-Las Vegas said.

The Senate's bill passed along party lines, while the Assembly's bill only had the support of two republicans.  It allows certain felons to automatically get their rights back, after they've completed parole or one year into their parole, depending on the term.  Currently, felons can petition to get their rights back, but Frierson says that is hard because it requires knowledge of the legal system, and money to file the petition.

"Your sentence is you're supposed to get punished for certain things and give up certain specific rights," Assem. Ira Hanson, R-Sparks said. "If you're a felon, you've committed some pretty serious stuff, and you can get it back over time. The only people that are excluded are certain people in certain categories."

"In ten years, both as a public defender and as a prosecutor for the state and for Clark County, never seen anybody successfully petition the court to get their rights back," Frierson said. "Not saying it never happens but it's rare."

Not all felons would qualify to have their rights reinstated. Category A Felonies are the worst of the worst, including murder, sexual assault and kidnapping.  Those criminals would not qualify, nor would people who were found guilty of Category B Felonies, like robbery, if someone was injured during the act. Anyone found guilty of more than one felony would also be disqualified.

"We think that, barring the most serious offenses, that in order for you to reintegrate back into society, I think you need to have the full benefits of reintegrating back into society," Frierson said.

"Even if they're not violent, they've committed a felony and our courts and our juries have imposed that sentence," Assem. Jim Wheeler, R-Gardnerville said. "Now, we're overturning part of that sentence."

Most republicans say the current law works, and that a change in law would not consider factors like whether a parolee was discharged honorably or dishonorably.

"This eliminates that distinction," Hanson said. "So, even if you have a dishonorable discharge, you'll have your rights restored. I've got real problems with that because most of the time, when they have these provisions, it has to do with restitution and completing your sentence to the satisfaction of the parole and probation people."

Some argue that these bills are politically motivated because most felons would theoretically vote democratically.

"I think it's a political bill," Wheeler said. "It's just that simple. I think that democrats are playing to their base on the bill."

"I don't think that was a relevant factor in our considering this," Frierson said. "Regardless of what party you are, I think as a value of our society, once you've paid your debt to society, we believe it's valuable to have incentive to continue to conform to our rules."

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