Virginia AG urges lawmakers to expand ‘clean slate’ laws

Posted at 4:11 PM, Sep 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-27 18:02:55-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia's Attorney General Mark Herring called for lawmakers to pass legislation to allow individuals convicted of certain crimes a second chance.

Herring called for an easier expungement process for Virginia's offenders at Richmond's Capitol Square, Friday morning.

"Virginia is one of the most restrictive states in the country when it comes to record expungement and I think we can do a lot to help those who have shown that they’ve turned their lives around and earned a second chance," Herring explained. "Criminal convictions stay with them forever and limits their future opportunities."

It can be difficult to obtain a job, a license or even housing if someone has been convicted of a crime like drug possession or underage drinking.

"That criminal conviction stays with them for the rest of their life in Virginia," Herring stated. "I've seen very often it limits their future opportunities, job opportunities, housing, and employment education."

Herring spoke alongside Courtney Nunnally, a recovering heroin addict and reformed offender.

Nunnally plead guilty to felony possession of a controlled substance eight years ago, but the crime has impacted her career and education.

"I've cleaned up and haven’t gotten into any trouble since, but it still limits my opportunities to further my career," she explained.

She currently serves as the Richmond City Health District (RCHD) peer recovery specialist.

In August, Nunnally announced a partnership with Richmond Ambulance Authority (RAA) and RCHD to help get more people into treatment.

She also serves as a police and court liaison for the Recovery Unplugged Addiction Treatment Center and as the president of her non-profit Addiction Uncuffed.

Eight years later, her felony conviction has hindered more job opportunities.

"I also had an opportunity to work for Chesterfield Police Department, but was unable to apply for the position," Nunnally said of the county's opioid liaison.

Chesterfield Police Chief Col. Jeffrey Katz supported Nunnally for the position, but federal criminal justice information services protocols prevents unescorted convicted felons within a police facility.

"As a result, I requested this position be transferred to the County's Mental Health Department because they are not subject to these same federal standards relating to criminal intelligence security. That is where this position currently resides," Col. Katz said in a statement. "Ms. Nunnally is a great asset to our community and especially to those struggling through recovery. I’ve expressed my support for her consideration."

However, Dana Schrad, Executive Director of Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, does not support wholesale expungement. Schrad cited the high standards and scrutiny involved when hiring candidates for a law enforcement position.

She said it's essential that a police department know the full background of an individual seeking a career in law enforcement. Schrad stated certain offenses, if expunged, could mean red flags for police departments.

Herring said it would be up to lawmakers to determine how much time would pass for certain offenses to be expunged from a record. More serious offenses like violent crimes, DUI, sexual assault, and domestic violence would not be eligible.

“Attorney General Herring has been a consistent champion for a more just, fair, and equitable criminal justice system. Virginia is better for his leadership on these issues.” Democratic Party of Virginia spokesman Jake Rubenstein said in a statement.

CBS 6 reached out to the office of Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox and haven't heard back as of Friday afternoon.

Nunnally said it would take a pardon from the Governor to remove the conviction on her record because she plead guilty.

She hoped lawmakers take notice saying "I don’t think individuals who make a mistake have to pay for it for life."

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