If you have a criminal record, you know your punishment doesn’t stop at the end of your sentence. Maybe you’re close to renting a home in a great neighborhood before the landlord gets cold feet. Maybe you’re in the final interview stage for a new job and the employer cancels the interview out of nowhere. Or maybe you want to coach your kid’s team but didn’t seem like the “right fit.”
Regardless of the example, one thing is clear. Even after your sentence is over, your criminal record can still come back to haunt you. For Jason Mariner, the winner of a Republican primary in Florida, his past could cost him a political win, too.
Mariner served roughly two years in Florida jails about a decade ago.
Jason Mariner served approximately two years in the Palm Beach County jail in 2007 and 2012. According to the Florida Department of Corrections, Mariner’s criminal record includes things like theft, burglary, cocaine possession, obstruction and resisting arrest. But Mariner completed those sentences and seemingly moved on almost a full decade ago.
Even during his campaign to become the Republican candidate for Florida’s 20th Congressional District, Mariner didn’t shy away from his past. “Before running for Congress, I ran from the law.” But now, he says, he will be tough on crime.
Mariner’s decade-old convictions could make him ineligible for office.
Unlike many justice-impacted people, formerly incarcerated Floridians are fortunate enough to have new clemency rules that “automatically” restore certain rights after a felony conviction. One of those rights is the right to hold political office.
But there’s a catch. The new rules say they restore the rights automatically. But you must still comply with a formal process set forth by the Florida Commission on Offender Review and Office of Executive Clemency.
Mariner has been fairly transparent about his failure to comply with that process. “No, nothing,” he reportedly said when asked whether he went through the process to restore his right to hold office. But he also said he doesn’t think it’s going to be an issue. “No, it’s not going to be an issue.”
In an email to WUSF Public Media’s Corbin Bolies, Mariner said that he followed the same process as any other candidate. “As I am not an attorney or official in state government, it is not really my place to answer your legal or procedural questions about Florida law, applicable scenarios, etc., or advise you legally.”
Florida records reflect that Mariner never applied for or received clemency.
But Bolies searched Florida records and found no evidence that Mariner had restored his rights. The only thing he did was sign a statement saying he was qualified to run.
But Angela Meredith, a spokeswoman for the Florida Commission on Offender Review, told Bolies that clemency, even under the new rules, requires completion of the formal process. “A clemency application is required for the restoration of civil rights.”
Meredith also said that “[a]ll forms of clemency, should they be granted, would be searchable in that database.” According to Bolies’ reporting, there was no record of Mariner receiving clemency.