RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia lawmakers have approved legislation to allow people convicted of certain crimes to have their criminal records sealed.
Supporters say the bill will help remove obstacles to obtaining jobs, housing, and education for thousands of Virginians.
The legislation will set up a system for automatically sealing nine misdemeanor charges after seven years if the person isn’t convicted of any other crimes during that time.
Charges eligible for automatic sealing include underage possession of alcohol, simple larceny and possession of marijuana.
It would also allow people convicted of other misdemeanors and certain felonies to petition the court to request that those records be sealed.
A judge would have to review and approve those requests.
The automatic expungement legislation by the General Assembly is now headed to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
“The Virginia NAACP is encouraged by the passage of expungement reforms passed by the Virginia General Assembly that now head to Governor Ralph Northam’s desk for his signature.
While we celebrate today’s milestone of progress, the Virginia NAACP remains firm in its position that there should be no additional barriers to obtaining automatic expungement once an individual qualifies: no court fees, no petitions, no attorney fees, no hearings.
Until Virginia removes the systemic barriers that will continue to disproportionately impact Black Virginians following this law’s enactment, the Virginia NAACP will not rest or be silent.”Virginia State Conference NAACP President Robert N. Barnette, Jr.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring also released a statement on the passage of the legislation in the General Assembly.
“Each of us is more than our worst mistake, and we cannot allow Virginians’ lives to be dictated by one mistake. For too long, Virginia’s laws would not allow someone to move on from a mistake they had made years ago, regardless of how much they had grown, who they’d become, or what they’d done for their community since,” said Attorney General Herring. “With this new ‘clean slate’ legislation, Virginia will now be a place of second chances, and a place where someone can grow, give back to their community, and move on from something they may have done years ago.
“Automatic expungement and clean slate laws are something that I have been pushing for years and I’m so proud that it is finally happening in the Commonwealth. I want to thank my colleagues in both the House and the Senate, and especially Majority Leader Charniele Herring and Senator Scott Surovell, for being strong partners in helping to pass this important legislation. I look forward to continuing to work with you as we pursue our goals to make Virginia a more fair, equal, and just place.”
Herring said he has advocated for expanding record expungement opportunities and simplifying the process to build a more just and fair criminal justice system and to address the disproportionate burden that criminal convictions place on Black Americans and people of color.