CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – Senate Bill 152, which passed during the 2019 regular legislative session, goes into effect June 7th. The new law will enable thousands of people with qualifying nonviolent felony convictions, and many people with misdemeanor convictions, to petition the court to have their criminal record permanently expunged.
This new law has the potential to remove barriers to employment for people whose job applications are often summarily denied due to having a criminal conviction on their record.
Additionally, employers who previously could not hire people who are otherwise qualified will have a bigger pool of potential employees.
Jaimee Kimble of Kanawha County who plans to petition to expunge her criminal record says, “I plan to petition because even though eight years have passed since my conviction, and I’m far from the person I was when I got in trouble, I am still stigmatized and labeled for a mistake I made when I was 21 years old. I’ve put in so much effort to put my life on track and not reoffend, but I continue to face setbacks because of that conviction.”
Senator Glen Jeffries (D-Putnam), lead sponsor of the bill says, “I am very pleased that both bodies of government have improved the previous law that was passed in 2017. This is one step in giving individuals a second chance whether with a misdemeanor or a nonviolent felony charge. There are still safeguards in place and charges that are not eligible for expungement. I believe this is the right step to help create better job opportunities and help our workforce participation in West Virginia.”
Some key things about the new expungement law:
- Most non-violent felonies qualify for expungement petition
- For misdemeanor expungement, it no longer matters how old you were when convicted
- Waiting period after being out of prison and off parole is 5 years for non-violent felonies, 1-2 years for misdemeanors
- Filing fees are non-refundable and a person can only petition once. Therefore, it is imperative that potential petitioners know they are eligible and that they have all the necessary paperwork in order
- For petitioners in financial need, a financial affidavit can be filed along with an expungement petition
- Petitioners can file using an attorney or by themselves as a pro se litigant. The expungement process can be daunting, and attorneys caution that there is no substitute for sound legal counsel
Legal Aid of West Virginia, American Friends Service Committee, American Civil Liberties Union of WV, Mountain State Justice, Kanawha County Public Defender Office, and statewide Re-Entry Councils are collaborating on efforts to educate petitioners, lawyers, and judges about the new law. Free legal clinics are also being planned.
More detailed information available on Legal Aid of West Virginia’s website at lawv.net. Expungement forms will be available on the WV Supreme Court’s website.