Virginia is one of only two states (Kentucky is the other) that strips the civil rights of felons and requires a lengthy application process to restore them. This process restores the rights to vote, run for or hold public office, serve on juries and serve as a notary public. However, it does not include the right to possess or transport any firearm or to carry a concealed weapon.
Virginia felons who want their civil rights restored must show that they have paid their debt and changed their ways. They cannot apply for restoration until they have completed their sentence or have been released from supervised probation for three years for nonviolent crimes or five years for violent, drug or election-related crimes. They also must have paid all court costs, fines and restitution.
Out-of-state applicants who wish to reside in Virginia must include certified copies of their driving and criminal records. The restoration process requires an in-depth review by the secretary of the commonwealth, including a criminal background check and the approval of the governor. Once an application is received, the process takes 60 days.
Most convicted felons may apply for restoration of voting ability two years after completing their sentence, but those convicted of violent felonies; drug sales, distribution or manufacturing; or electoral offenses must wait five years.
If your name still appears on the state database as an incarcerated person, a voting official can ask for proof that you have completed parole (for example, your parole discharge documentation).
Unlike a pardon, the restoration of civil rights does not erase a criminal record. But favorable action from the governor can soften the mention of a felony conviction on a job application. Virginia convicted felons are able to run or hold office and serve as a notary public once their rights are restored.
However, Virginia felons are denied the right to public employment, such as working as a teacher or in a family day care. Felons may request that right be restored when applying for your restoration of rights. The licensing boards of certain professions also can refuse to grant, or can revoke, a license to practice those professions from convicted felons.
The restoration of rights does not include the right to possess or transport any firearm or to carry a concealed weapon. To regain state firearms privileges, a convicted felon must apply to the circuit court of her jurisdiction of residence for a permit to possess or carry a firearm. Circuit courts may consider the restoration of firearms privileges only after civil rights are restored. See the link in Resources for more Information pertaining to the restoration of firearm rights.
A convicted felon may take the Virginia bar exam, but it is a factor that will be considered in determining whether a person can prove by clear and convincing evidence that he possesses the requisite good character and fitness to qualify for admission to the bar. The Board's Character and Fitness Committee considers the nature of the crime, how long ago it was committed, the punishment and positive contributions to society since the conviction. A pardon or a restoration of the person's civil rights is certainly a positive factor.
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