For many felons in West Virginia, just one past decision has led to years of court hearings, fees and, in some cases, a damaged reputation. Contrary to what some might believe, not all felons have a violent past. Even those who have been convicted for a violent crime have had extensive periods of time to pay fines and face repercussions.

One of the most controversial debates on today’s political spectrum involves that of gun control. When it comes to owning guns, laws in the past have made it difficult for some convicted felons to purchase any type of firearm. However, those laws could see future change.

On the Horizon

The Wheeling News Register reported earlier today that West Virginia’s laws regarding felons may be on the brink of change. Under a new bill that could give non-violent felons a “second chance,” The Senate Judiciary Committee moved to widen eligibility for criminal expungement to those convicted of varying non-violent felonies. Felons who fall under this category could be eligible for expungement one year after they have served either time behind bars or completed a period of supervision. Felons would have to wait five years after an expungement order is granted before becoming eligible for permanent expungement. 

Laws at Current

The Restoration of Rights Project also sheds light on the state’s laws surrounding felonies, restoration of rights, pardon and expungement. Under current law, it is a felony to possess a firearm if the owner has been convicted of a past felony involving violence, felony sexual offenses or felony drug offenses (with the exception of marijuana). If a convicted felon seeks to restore gun ownership rights, the court must find them competent, as well as capable, of exercising those rights responsibly. Aside from recent potential changes in West Virginia’s laws, a 2013 law allows felons to regain their gun rights if the prohibiting conviction can be expunged.