Misdemeanor contempt conviction does not prohibit Arpaio’s Senate run
PHOENIX — After former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced he would run for Senate on Tuesday, some began to question how he was permitted to do so after being convicted of criminal contempt of court.
The answer is quite simple: The United States does not forbid people convicted of a crime from seeking public office.
The U.S. Constitution requires that someone running for federal office meet three requirements:
- They must be of proper age (For the House, this means 25 and for the Senate, 30)
- House members must have been a U.S. citizen for seven years, while senators have to be citizens for nine
- They must live in the state where they are elected
If a candidate meets all those requirements — which Arpaio does — he or she can run for and be sworn into office.
Arpaio was pardoned by President Donald Trump in August. The former lawman was found guilty in late July of misdemeanor contempt for continuing his immigration sweeps for 17 months after a judge ordered him to stop.
Even if Arpaio had been sentenced to jail time, he could theoretically launch a successful campaign from behind bars. At least one person has done so in American history.
Former Rep. Matthew Lyon was elected to Congress in 1798 while serving jail time for violating the Sedition Act. He had been sentenced to four months in prison for publicly criticizing President John Adams.