Can a Felon Become a Lawyer? Complete Guide for both convicts and ex-convicts

Perhaps the most conflicting question for a felon is whether they can integrate back into society.

For some convicts who want to become lawyers, this article is for you.

The article also explores what a felon is and the possibility of a felon pursuing a career in law.

What is a felon?

A felon is a person who has been convicted by a court of law for committing a felony.

What is a felony?

The commission of a felony is one of the most serious acts of unlawful conduct by a person.

Accordingly, in many jurisdictions, including the United States, there are two types of offenses. The first type is a misdemeanor and the second type is a felony.

The major difference between the two offenses is distinguishable by a view of the penalties attached to an offense.

Accordingly, a misdemeanor is often an offense that is punishable by a fine or by short-term imprisonment in a local jail.

On the other hand, a felony is a crime punishable by a jail term of more than one year.

Upon imprisonment, felons lose some civil rights. However, these rights vary from state to state.

Some of the rights that felons lose include the right to vote, the right to hold public office, or the right to own or possess firearms.

What are some of the crimes that could make one a felon

Several classifications of offenses constitute a felony. In the United States, 18 U.S. Code Section 3559 provides a guideline.

  • Life imprisonment or a sentence whose maximum penalty is death is a class A felony.
  • Class B felonies constitute offenses that attract imprisonment of twenty-five years or more whereas Class C offenses that are those that have a penalty of less than twenty-five years but more than 10 years imprisonment.
  • For offenses where a convicted person serves a jail term of more than five but less than 10 years in prison, such an offense is a class D felony.
  • A class E felony is an offense whereby one serves less than five years but more than one-year imprisonment.

Therefore, a person who commits the following offenses risks being a convicted felon.

  • Crimes which deprive other people of property. Examples of crimes include arson, vandalism, and grand theft.
  • Serious drug offenses. These offenses include the distribution, selling, and trafficking of drugs.
  • Sexual assault and human trafficking.
  • Crimes that are categorized as violent. For example, first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and robbery.
  • White-collar crimes such as tax evasion, embezzlement, and money fraud.

So, can a Felon Become a Lawyer?

Can a Felon Become a Lawyer
Image of El Chapo De Guzman. A Famous Felon. Phot Courtesy of REUTERS/Henry Romero.

A convicted felon can become licensed to practice law as many states allow persons with records to apply to become attorneys.

A criminal record is not an automatic bar from anyone attending law school.

However, the discretion to practice law depends on the state laws in place.

For example, in the US some states such as Kansas have a requirement where one must wait five years after finishing a sentence to become an attorney.

What is common in every state is a requirement that an attorney pass a moral character examination.

For an ex-felon, the test may be more thorough than the standard used to judge.

It is the responsibility of a felon to convince a state’s licensing board that they have reformed and are now people of good moral character.

A felon who passes their bar exams and the character and fitness moral test stands a chance of becoming an attorney.

Apart from these requirements, felons will normally undergo the ordinary learning processes that all attorneys have.

Examining State laws and how they restrict felons from becoming attorneys

In the State of Florida, the governor must restore a person’s civil rights by petition, which is usually a year-long petition.

For Washington State, the bar examiners are responsible for determining if a person has the appropriate character and fitness to practice law before they may sit for the bar exam.

Felons in Mississippi cannot practice law. In fact, for most felons, no prayer can persuade a bar examiner to confer a law license to a felon.

As stated before, the laws in Kansas allow felons to have a license to practice law after the expiry of five years since the end of the felon’s prison sentence. This requirement is also followed in the States of Kansas and Missouri.


In conclusion, a convicted felon can become licensed to practice law in some states but not all.

Every state has different laws about when a former felon may practice law.

Felons face convictions for their felony and lose certain rights or face restrictions.

However, there are many lawyers practicing today who have criminal records or have been incarcerated.

If you have had some legal troubles in the past, do not let a felony conviction cause you to completely write off ever becoming a lawyer.