Felons and the presidency

Although convicted felons can not vote, I can not find anything in the constitution that prevents a convicted felon from running for and being elected president of the United States. I am sure a felon would not get elected, but does anyone know the answer to this question? If so where was it found. Thanks for any input.


Qualifications for president are set forth in the Consitution. The president must be a “natural born citizen” and have “attained the age of 35 year, and been 14 years a resident within the United States.”

As long as you fit those qualifications, you can be president. Even if you spent those last 14 years in prison. :slight_smile:

“What we have here is failure to communicate.” – Strother Martin, anticipating the Internet.


I must disagree, Chuck.

Article I, Section 3, paragraph 7 provides:

This means that a person impeached may not serve as President, since President is “an Office of honor (sic), Trust or Profit under the United States.” Remember that impeachment is not just for presidents; federal judges may also be impeached.

Of course, you know that the Twenty-Second Amendment also limits who may be elected President, by disqualifying anyone who has previously twice been elected.

  • Rick

But Rick, that provision only applies to officials who have been impeached and convicted by Congress. I assume that any garden-variety felon would not have been impeached and removed from public office, so that prohibition would not apply.

I suppose that the full list of qualifications would be:

–natural born citizen (or a U.S. citizen at the adoption of the Constitution :))
–attained the age of 35 years
–14 years a resident within the United States
–Not elected more than twice (or once if served more than two years of another’s term)
–Not have been impeached and convicted by Congress.

You don’t have a thing to worry about. I’ll have the jury eating out of my hand. Meanwhile, try to escape.

Sig by Wally M7, master signature architect to the SDMB

Not to be a stickler, but two points about impeachment (as I understand it):

  1. As seen in the case of our dear Clinton, a person impeached MAY serve as President. Impeachment != conviction

  2. Prohibition from holding offices of honor is one of the POSSIBLE judgments against an impeached official. However, I don’t believe it is mandated. Therefore, if the sentencing body declined to include it, then presumably the person removed from office could run again (in a sense taking his case to the court of the people).

Yup. You’re both right.

Sheesh. That was not a good post for me. I blame society.

  • Rick

OK, first a word on Clinton. As I understand it, the furthest it got was that the House of Representatives voted in favor of impeachment, but that the Senate did not. That means that Clinton was in fact not impeached, since impeachment is an act of Congress in its entirety. I welcome corrections, as always :slight_smile:

Secondly, as for convicted felons running for the Presidency, I need only quote this campaign slogan from 1920:

“Vote for President - Convict No. 9653”

'S been done :cool:

All I wanna do is to thank you, even though I don’t know who you are…

As I understand both Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson were impeached, however, they weren’t convicted of the charges brought against them, so they weren’t removed from office.

If they were convicted, they wouldn’t necessarily be made permanent ineligible to hold office. That would have to be agreed to by the Senate also.

Alcee Hastings was impeached and convicted by Congress when he was serving as a Federal judge. However, he was later elected to a seat in Congress.

The House impeaches and the Senate tries.

So once the House delivered the articles of impeachment, Clinton was technically “impeached” and subject to a trial of impeachment by the Senate. If convicted, the Senate would have had the option to remove him from office and/or to prevent him from ever holding office again.

Of course, we all often use “impeachment” to describe the entire process from literal “impeachment” to removal – the distinction isn’t really critical.

Not to further humiliate Bricker for the one erroneous post out of his thousands, but members of Congress may be impeached, which I believe has only happened once.

And to clear up another point from the OP, convicted felons may vote in some states, Massachusetts, I believe, being one of the few that does so.

Thanks for all the replys. My question was directed to felons convicted in court for whatever offense they have commited. I did not mean it to pertain to the sitting president.
In other words, what stops murders, rapists, or any other garden variety felon from becoming president? Forget sitting or past presidents. Thanks guys/girls.

The voters, generally.

I don’t know of any law (in California) that would prevent a convicted felon from being elected to a federal office, even if they are still serving a prison term for their felony. As far as I know, loss of the right to vote does not include loss of the right to be elected.

Congress tried to impeach one of its own members back in the 18th century I believe. However, Congress decided that it was easier to just vote to expel a member since it has the sole power to decide who can and cannot be a member of their august body.

Being a convict does not disqualify you from running for President or from being elected. In fact, in 1918 Eugene Debs ran for President while in jail. Aside from being a convict, he was a 3rd party candidate. I am uncertain as to what kind of electoral vote he recieved, I assume it was slim to none, but he did recieve a noticable portion of the popular vote.

Debs received no electoral votes.

I have a doubt and I think some other people may have it as well. Is “impeachment” the conviction or the indictment?

Is he “impeached” once he is convicted and removed from office or is he impeached once the House approves the impeachment articles (indictment)?

My guess is that he is impeached when he is convicted and removed.

This is how Britannica.com defines “impeachment”

This was obviously written prior to 1998.

I think that there is a practical impossibility that prevents a convicted felon from attaining high office. An impeachment is not exactly the same as a trial, so I don’t think an impeachment is prevented under any double jeopardy rules. If Gordon Liddy were to be elected President, Congress might have the option to reexamine his prior conviction and impeach him for his past transgressions.

Keep in mind that I’m pulling this one from the same part of my anatomy that the monkeys fly out of.

This same line of thinking actually was brought up by Madison in the debate over the Constitution. IIRC, he was answering a question about why the president wouldn’t pardon himself for his own crimes he committed.
I suppose it could work in reverse.