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Restoration of Rights More Elusive than NFL Redemption for Vick says MU Law Professor

Former NFL star won't regain right to vote for five years

July 28, 2009

Story Contact(s):
University of Missouri News Bureau, munewsbureau@missouri.edu, (573) 882-6211

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – On Monday, former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was granted a conditional reinstatement to the National Football League. While he hasn’t signed with a team yet, Vick could be playing by mid-season. That’s a lot sooner than he will be granted the right to vote, which could be five years from now, according to University of Missouri law professor S. David Mitchell. Mitchell says that Vick has many more obstacles to face before regaining his civil rights.

“In the coming months, Michael Vick will navigate a restoration process that makes avoiding the blitzing linebacker or rushing linemen pale in comparison,” Mitchell said. “The process to restore civil rights should be reasonably related to the offense and should be neither onerous nor conditioned on economics. The acts in which Michael Vick participated and to which he contributed financially were heinous. Clearly, there is no excuse for such conduct; however, the punishment for the conduct bears no rational relationship to the offense.”

Currently, Vick is denied the right to vote, the right to hold public office, the right to serve on a jury and the right to serve as a notary public. As a non-violent felony offender in the state of Virginia, Vick must pay all costs and fines associated with his conviction, not obtain any new charges for three years, not be convicted of a DWI for the next 5 years, and wait five years after all court obligations have been fulfilled before any of his civil rights will be restored. While Mitchell said the intent of this law is to make sure that all felony offenders prove that they are ready to be productive members of society, some of these restrictions make it more difficult for felons to regain their civil rights.

Mitchell joined the MU law faculty in 2006 and teaches torts, criminal justice administration, law and society, and collateral consequences of sentencing. His primary research focus is the collateral consequences associated with a felony conviction, and he recently published an article on the disproportionate impact of such laws on the African-American community. Mitchell served as a law clerk for the honorable Andre M. Davis of the U.S. District Court of Maryland from 2003-04. Mitchell is a member of the Boone County Offender Transition Network and serves on the Boone County Community Partnership Board of Directors in Columbia.

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