If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably got a Virginia criminal record that’s not expungeable. (If you’re unsure if it’s expungeable, check out my article on Virginia expungements). I’m sure that you’re worried about your future. Perhaps you’ve been denied employment (or have been terminated from a job). Maybe you’ve been denied placement in an education program or turned down for a lease or loan? Whatever the case may be, it’s undeniable that criminal convictions are serious and create many barriers for day-to-day living.
However, a criminal record should not be an excuse to give up. I can tell you that I’ve had a number of clients that have had serious criminal convictions and went on to do great things. While not my client, recently I heard an awesome podcast of a young guy who was released from prison and went on to start a physical fitness company called ConBod. Check out the podcast here.
A few options to try. (Pardons and Restoration of Civil Rights)
If you're not eligible for an expungement, there's two legal routes to consider. First is to see if you qualify for a pardon. To be clear, from my understanding, pardons can be difficult to obtain. However, check out Virginia's pardon website here.
Of course, if you’ve been convictive of a felony, you’re aware that you’ve lost many civil rights. You should set your goal of seeking to have your civil rights restored. To learn more about that, check out Virginia’s restoration of rights site.
Unfortunately, BenGlassLaw does not pursue pardons or restoration of civil rights for clients.
But, James, employers keep bringing it up in job interviews.
Of course, I’m not ignorant or naive. Employers, schools, etc. will question you about your record. But a lot of life and success really pertains to communication. So here’s some thoughts to thinking about in responding:
1. Time Matters. The more time you can put between your conviction and your current life, the better. And as that time increases, your record will be a highlight of a difficult point in your life, but you cannot let it define you. Make sure you point out that it’s been [x] number of years since you’ve been in trouble. And you’ve shown change over that time period, with no issues at all.
2. What you’ve learned matters. Look, going through the criminal justice system is hard and scary. For those of you who’ve managed to make a change in your life, pointing out that change will inspire people. Most people have went through difficult times in their life, and they’ve learned from those mistakes. Being able to specifically articulate what you learned from the behavior that lead to that record and what you had to do to overcome it will inspire people. In reality, almost everyone has violated the law (to various degrees). They just were lucky enough not to have been caught. If you can truly articulate what you’ve learned, it will go far.
3. Hustle matters. People will see your efforts if you are confident, honest, and are willing to keep pushing in the face of rejection and failure. If you’ve been turned down from 5 jobs, keep going. If you’ve been denied from 20 positions, keep going. If people have looked you in your face and questioned who you are, keep going. If you are truly willing to add value and hustle, someone will see it.
Believe that you can.
Whether it’s religion, family, self-help, treatment, therapy, etc. Do what you have to do to not let your criminal record define who you are as a person. You’ve got to be willing to put in the work and have the ambition. But you can and will move on if you have faith.