Can Felons Change Their Names? Application, Denial, & More

Most people who have been convicted aim to make a fresh start. Sometimes, this involves ridding themselves of a name associated with a dark chapter in their life. If you’re one of those people, you’re probably wondering: Can criminals change their names?

Changing one’s name as a convicted felon depends on the jurisdiction and the nature and severity of the criminal offense. For example, Illinois and Florida prohibit felons from changing their names while Georgia allows them.

Read on to find out if criminals can change their names and if changing one’s name can hide a criminal record.

Reason Why Felons Change Their Name

Criminals often change their names because they want a fresh start. The “Google effect” makes it possible for many people to look up their history online at any time, especially if the crime conviction was public.

Finding employment as a convicted felon is possible, but not easy. There is always the fear that your new co-workers or friends will treat you differently after they learn about your past.

If you can’t convince a search engine to remove links to your name, a change may be the next best course of action.

Now, while a name change is possible in some states, it will not prevent your criminal history from being officially reported, such as when a criminal background check is conducted.

Where Can Felons Change Names?

Depending on the state, a felony conviction may prevent the offender from changing the name. For example, in Illinois, the required name change form will require applicants to state whether or not they are convicted felons.

If they show yes, Illinois Law will deny their name change request. The same is true of Florida law.

On the other hand, there is no restriction on name change in the state of Georgia. Even criminals can easily apply to the court to change their name. In New York, a felon cannot change his name without first expunging his criminal record.

Many states fall in between, making distinctions based on crime. An offender needs to contact the court and seek a court order for a name change. He may also need to file other documents with the court to change his name.

How About Felons Who Change Names as Part of an Application for a Marriage License?

If they have a criminal record and decide to change their name during the marriage license application process, the felon must fill out an additional document before the civil court will issue a marriage license.

Criminal convictions and name change applications require proof of service to be submitted with the marriage license application. The prosecuting authority has 30 days to object after receiving notice of the application.

The licensing office is not allowed to issue a marriage license with a name change within this thirty-day window. Parties applying for a marriage license may delay the issuance of the license for 30 days or issue the license without a name change.

The Licensing Center may refuse to issue a marriage license with the proposed name change if an objection is submitted. They will still issue a permit without a name change, or the applicant can file a motion to dismiss the prosecutor’s objection and request a hearing.

The offender must demonstrate at the hearing by clear and compelling evidence that he or she requested the name change in good faith, would not endanger anyone, and would not endanger public safety.

If there is an objection, the parties applying for the marriage license may choose to issue it without a name change or postpone its issuance until after the hearing.

Can Changing Your Name Conceal A Criminal Record?

Simply said, the process of changing your name will not help you hide your criminal history; therefore, you shouldn’t try to do it for that reason. There are many explanations for why this is the case.

When changing your name, most states require you to personally update all relevant public records.

However, even if you skip this official process, your criminal record will still be associated with your new name. The background check will use your Social Security number, as is done professionally by businesses screening potential hires.

In this instance, your original name and criminal record will be made public because changing your name does not affect your Social Security number. Similarly, criminal history reveals during a traffic stop or apprehension.

Depending on the jurisdiction, you may be able to take proactive steps to keep your criminal history hidden from the public, such as expunging or sealing a registration. Except in rare cases of formal amnesty, this is often not obtainable for actual criminal convictions.

Only the governor of your state or the president of the country can usually grant pardons, making them highly political and absent exceptional circumstances.

How Can Convicted Felons Change Their Names?

In order to apply in civil court for a name change, offenders must meet certain conditions, including being a resident of the state in which they are applying for the change. Name changes with a criminal record are usually more complicated and need to be handled by the District Attorney.

The court will determine whether to grant someone’s request for a change based on whether it was made in good faith, without fraudulent intent, and in the best interest of public health and safety.

Although one’s state does not formally prohibit changing the name of an offender due to a criminal past, one will consider it if the court knows. A lawyer’s advice is appropriate if one can afford it.

Generally, a name change petition requires a petition form and supporting documents such as a birth certificate, proof of address, and photo identification. Petitions may also need to be notarized before being submitted.

Different states have publication requirements that require applicants to publish a notice of their name change in a local newspaper. Excluded, however, are those who have experienced domestic abuse or are concerned about their own safety by these laws.

Can A Judge Decline a Name Change?

Crimes involving fraud or deception are more likely to be disqualified by a state agency for a name change. One thing to keep in mind is that the judge will investigate all the reasons during the name change court process in each state.

It is never permissible to change one’s name to avoid punishment or debt. If the court finds that one is changing one’s name for this purpose, one may face severe criminal charges as this is a crime in itself.

Remember that the judge will decide. An application for a legal name change may not be available to those who are currently incarcerated.

Felonies, currently under the control of the Department of Corrections, are on parole, and sex offenders will not be allowed to apply without prior authorization.

A person must certify to the court that the name change is not being done to avoid prosecution, for fraudulent purposes, or to engage in any other illegal activities.

Before filing a petition for a name change in California, a person may want to review the California Code of Civil Procedure if they have had prior legal problems. If unsure of the legal position, one should seek guidance from an experienced attorney.

In California, however, the vast majority of name change requests are granted. A judge will choose the superior court. The court will review all information, California name change regulations, and objections raised.

Reasons a Judge Will Decline Name Change

If a change request lacks important details that a judge, court, or law requires, it may be dismissed. That section will not prevent acceptance if one properly completes all the conversion application papers and provides all the data required by the appropriate court.

A name change may be rejected if it is potentially harmful, confusing, fraudulent, etc. Do not use a name change to try to avoid legal or ethical consequences.

A history of financial mismanagement or identity theft often provides sufficient justification for a denial, which is free to challenge.

An offender must state in detail the reasons for wanting to change their name in their application as the court will determine weighting factors such as issues of public safety.


Although criminals cannot completely erase their past, they can avoid dealing with the situation that many ex-offenders face.

Overall, once they have served their sentence and are released from prison, there is no real reason why they cannot change their identity. It takes a lot of effort, time and effort, but it can be done.

Ultimately, it depends on the local state law — not the ones on the books today, but those that would apply to a convicted felon’s release.

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