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House bill would provide way for convicted felons in Arkansas to regain right to possess a firearm

Flowers’ legislation would also dismiss, seal convictions by Stephen Simpson, Graham Underwood | November 30, 2022 at 5:08 a.m.
FILE — The state Capitol is shown in this 2019 file photo.

State Rep. Vivian Flowers filed a bill Monday that would provide a pathway for people previously convicted of felonies to regain their right to possess a firearm after a certain amount of time has passed.

House Bill 1013 would establish a path to restoration of the right to possess a firearm and provide for the discharge, dismissal and sealing of a felony conviction.

Arkansas law currently states no person shall possess or own any firearm if they have been convicted of a felony.

Current law allows a person found guilty of a felony to restore their gun rights by expunging their conviction under the First Offender Act, receiving a pardon that expressly restores the ability to own guns through the Arkansas Drug Court, or by having their rights restored by the governor, according to a website titled Natural State Law.

House Bill 1013 would amend Arkansas law to add a Firearm Right Restoration subchapter that would allow for someone who has completed their sentence and is eligible under certain guidelines to file a uniform petition to discharge, dismiss and seal a felony and any related felonies that occurred out of the same course of conduct or criminal episode. A person may not petition to discharge, dismiss and seal multiple felonies that have no causal connection.

The subchapter would apply to all felony convictions occurring before, on or after the effective date of the act.

The bill states applicants may file a petition under the subchapter 10 years or more after the completion of their sentence for any felony that is not related to homicide, kidnapping, criminal attempt, terroristic threatening, voyeurism or death threats. A person may file only one uniform petition during their lifetime.

The effect of a discharge, dismissal and sealing means the person would have all privileges and rights restored, including the right to lawfully possess a firearm under state law.

[HB1013: Read copy of proposed legislature »]

The "completion of a person's sentence" means after being found guilty of a felony, the person has paid their fines, court costs or other monetary obligations; has been discharged from probation or parole; has completed any suspended sentence; has completed any court-ordered community service; has completed the driver's license reinstatement requirements and has completed any required vocational or technical education or training program.

Attempts to reach Flowers about the bill on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

According to the bill, a person who is eligible to have a conviction discharged, dismissed and sealed and have his or her rights to lawfully possess a firearm under state law restored may file a uniform petition that includes a request to reinvest jurisdiction in the circuit court in the county in which the offense was committed. The merits of a uniform petition may be considered only after the circuit court reinvests jurisdiction.

The bill would make the Arkansas Crime Information Center adopt and provide a uniform petition and uniform order that would be used by a petitioner and any circuit court in the state.

The bill states a prosecuting attorney may file a notice opposing a uniform petition that states reasons for the opposition. A court may not sign a uniform order granting relief without a hearing, and may not grant the uniform petition until a 30-days period has passed since the petition was served on the prosecuting attorney.

The burden of proof established in the bill states that unless the circuit court finds clear and convincing evidence that a felony conviction should not be discharged, dismissed and sealed and the person's right to lawfully possess a firearm restored, the court should discharge, dismiss and seal the felony conviction.

The grant or denial of the uniform petition may be appealed by either party.

If the court determines the felony conviction should be discharged, dismissed and sealed, the uniform order will be entered and filed with the circuit court clerk.

The circuit court clerk and, if applicable, the district court clerk will remove all petitions, orders, docket sheets, receipts and documents relating to the felony conviction. A replacement docket sheet will be created that will contain a statement that the felony conviction has been discharged, dismissed and sealed and the date the order was issued.

A person whose felony conviction has been discharged, dismissed and sealed under the subchapter will have all privileges and rights restored, including the right to lawfully possess a firearm under state law, and the conviction will not affect any of the peron's civil rights or liberties unless otherwise specifically provided by law.

The custodian of record of a discharged, dismissed and sealed felony conviction can't disclose the existence of the recorded felony except when requested by the person whose felony conviction was sealed or the person's attorney, or a criminal justice agency when it comes to employment.

The subchapter doesn't prevent the use of the record of a prior felony conviction otherwise discharged, dismissed and sealed under the subchapter for a criminal proceeding for any purpose not otherwise prohibited by law; habitual offender status; impeachment upon cross examination; healthcare professional licensure by a state agency or board, and the ability to act as a law enforcement officer.

Print Headline: Bill filed for felons to possess guns


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