CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Thousands of people in West Virginia convicted of certain nonviolent felonies and others with misdemeanor convictions now have a possible way to see their criminal records cleared.

On Friday, a new state expungement law took effect giving those who qualify the option of petitioning for as much in court.

“Generally, most nonviolent state felonies — West Virginia felonies — are eligible for expungement,” explained Lida Shepherd, program director for American Friends Service Committee.

The waiting period for filing for expungement is being out of prison and off parole for five years for nonviolent felonies and between one and two years for misdemeanors.

For misdemeanors, age at conviction is no longer a factor.

More information about how to begin the process of possible expungement by first determining potential eligibility is available at lawv.net.

The form to file for expungement is available at local circuit clerk offices.

Legal representation is not required for petition filings, but recommended.

Shepherd said those filing should keep one thing in mind.

“You can only petition once,” she cautioned. “So we’re really encouraging people who are interested in petitioning to have their record expunged to make sure they have all the paperwork in order.”

Filing fees are non-refundable.

“Having an expungement law now in West Virginia, that really will enable thousands of people who before did not have this avenue for clearing their criminal record, is incredibly important when we think about workforce participation,” Shepherd said.

“We hear a lot from people who have felony convictions that it really makes it extremely difficult to access professional licenses and really just get a call back.”

Assistance is available through Legal Aid.

The law change was made in SB 152 which was passed during the 2019 Regular Legislative Session and took effect officially on Friday.

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