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Restoring Your Political Rights After a Criminal Conviction

Have you ever been convicted of a felony crime in the state of Virginia? If so, your political rights—like your right to vote and serve on a jury—have likely been stripped away. Fortunately, there are a few different methods you can use to restore your political rights in Virginia.

What are my political rights?

Your political rights include the right to vote, serve on a jury, run for public office, become a notary public, and carry a firearm. According to the Constitution of Virginia, the Governor has sole discretion when it comes to restoring your political rights, except for your firearm rights. You can restore your rights in Virginia as long as you are a resident of the state, or if you were convicted in a Virginia court.

When can I apply?

First of all, you cannot apply to have your rights restored until you have completed the full sentence for your felony conviction. You can’t be incarcerated, on probation, or on parole, and you can’t have any outstanding court-imposed fees. Once you have served your sentence, you can apply through the Secretary of the COmmonwealth.  The process is fairly simple and can be done completely online.

Is restoration the same as a pardon?

Rights restoration, pardons, and expungement are all different concepts. A pardon involves getting the Governor’s official forgiveness for your crime, while an expungement totally removes a conviction from your criminal record—and both are very difficult to obtain. While pardons and expungements will automatically restore your rights, your best bet is to apply for restoration.

How do I apply?

Apply to Virginia’s Governor through the Secretary of the Commonwealth (SOC). It’s important to make sure your application includes all of the necessary documents and materials. If the Governor denies your application, you will have to wait one year before you can apply again.

What do I need to apply?

You’ll need to know the nature of your conviction; whether it is violent or nonviolent. This can be tricky because some drug convictions and election offenses are considered “violent.” You may also be asked to give proof of “civic responsibility” through community service or something comparable. Documents may include a letter from your probation officer, letters of reference, identification.


It’s important to understand that while your other political rights can be restored through this process, it cannot restore your right to carry a firearm—but this is one of the first steps involved in restoring your gun rights. If you are trying to restore your rights after a felony conviction and have served your time, get in touch with Norton Pelt today to see how we can help.

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