It is possible that persons previously convicted of certain "nonviolent" felony offenses in West Virignia can have that conviction reduced to misdemeanor status. Effective July 7, 2017, West Virignia's Second Chance for Employment Act enables those previously convicted of "nonviolent" felonies to petition the Circuit Court of conviction for a "reduced misdemeanor". The individual desiring to have their previous felony conviction reduced to misdemeanor status must wait at least (10) years after the felony conviction, or at least (10) years after any term of probation or sentence has expired for that offense before they will be successful in obtaining the relief authorized by the Act.

The purpose of the Act is to improve the employment possibilities of West Virginians who have before been convicted of felony crime that was a) "nonviolent", b) did not involve the infliction of serious physical injury, c) was not a sex offense, d) did not involve the use or exhibition of dangerous or deadly instrument, e) was not a felony assault / battery, f) was not a felony domestic assault / battery, and g) was not a felony violation of W.Va. Code 17B-4-1 et seq. The Circuit Court petitioned does however reserve the right to deny the requested relief to a petitioner whose previous felony conviction is inconsistent with the purposes of the Second Chance for Employment Act. 

If successful in their petition, those individuals previously convicted of a felony will have that conviction vacated, and all records relating to the prior offense will reflect a disposition of "reduced misdemeanor". Importantly, after receiving a criminal offense reduction, the person whose felony offense was reduced to misdemeanor status is not obigated to disclose that he or she has a felony conviction on an employment application or credit application. They will however be required to disclose the existence of a reduced misdemeanor conviction if asked about prior convictions or crimes. The Act also provides certain protections to those employers hiring persons who have had their felony conviction reduced to misdemeanor status in the context of civil litigation. As such, it appears that West Virginia's Second Chance for Employment Act will give people previously convicted of "nonviolent" felonies an opportunity to return to the workforce. 

It should be noted that this Act, which is codified by W.Va. Code 61-11B-1 et seq., states that "except as provided by the provisions of this article, the person shall not be deemed to have been convicted of any felony for any legal purpose or restrction." Notwithstanding, the reduction of a felony offense to a misdemeanor pursuant to West Virginia's Second Chance for Employment Act will not restore a persons right to own or possess firearms in accordance with Federal Law. 

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. This article is comprised of both fact and opinion. A person who desires to invoke legal process involving West Virginia's Second Chance for Employment Act should consult with a West Virginia Attorney at Law of their choice beforehand.   

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