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Sunday, August 23, 2015

As of May 2015 Amherst County Virginia has a New “Moral Turpitude” Conviction Business License Ban and Revocation


Updates:  

Writer: Amherst ordinance allows officials to penalize businesses for hiring ex-cons, September 9, 2015

2:00 Video: Hiring an Ex-con in Amherst County May Put Your Business License At Risk, September 3, 2015

Government officials in Amherst County, Virginia can now require employers to fire any ex-con, August 31, 2015
By Eugene Volokh
 

Original Post:
Back in May of this year the Amherst County Town Board/Board of Supervisors made a change to local law that appears to have gone unnoticed by most. 

It is Amherst County ordinance #14-151 http://www.countyofamherst.com/egov/documents/1431616005_45343.pdf. As of May 2015 basically anyone that has been convicted of any crime (misdemeanor or felony) involving “Moral Turpitude” will have their Amherst County Business License revoked AND any business/company that knowingly employs someone convicted of a crime involving “Moral Turpitude” could have their Amherst County Business License completely revoked. 

What is Moral Turpitude?
 


According to Wikipedia it is
A legal concept in the United States and some other countries that refers to "conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals."[1] This term appears in U.S. immigration law beginning in the 19th century.[2] 

The concept of "moral turpitude" might escape precise definition, but it has been described as an "act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellowmen or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man."[3] 

The classification of a crime or other conduct as constituting moral turpitude has significance in several areas of law. First, prior conviction of a crime of moral turpitude (or in some jurisdictions, "moral turpitude conduct", even without a conviction) is considered to have a bearing on the honesty of a witness and might be used for purposes of the impeachment of witnesses.[4]  

Second, offenses involving moral turpitude may be grounds to deny or revoke state professional licenses such as teaching credentials,[5] licenses to practice law,[6] or other licensed profession. Third, this concept is of great importance for immigration purposes in the United States, Canada, and some other countries, since offenses which are defined as involving moral turpitude are considered bars to immigration into the U.S. 

So, the term “Moral Turpitude” is extremely vague, it is not crime specific and its intention was to be used for Immigration purposes. 

Does Amherst County Virginia have a problem with illegal immigrants securing employment or starting businesses? Not that I’m aware of, so why would Amherst County pass this new mandate? 

A “Crime” is an act harmful not only to some individual or individuals but also to a community, society or the state which is punishable by law.  

But what crimes are included? Well, just about every crime per the U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 9 Visas. 

Amherst County did NOT create a specific list of criminal statutes that qualify under their intention of “Moral Turpitude” which means almost ANY crime could qualify. 

Virginia’s former Governor Bob McDonnell could be denied not only a business license but any employment if he were to move to Amherst County, Virginia. 

How could this new law be applied fairly and consistently? It can’t! 

The person given the approval or denial authority for Amherst County can be as biased as they personally desire. 

This new law will lead to violations of “equal protection under the law” because there is NOT a specific list of criminal convictions to know if your conviction qualifies as Moral Turpitude. Applicants can not research their requirements ahead of time, and business owners/employers do not know if any of their current or future employees could lead to them losing their business license. One could easily be subject to extreme financial loss having their license revoked after investing towards said business.  

The Commonwealth of Virginia has claimed it supports the successful re-entry of former-offenders back into society. One of the key factors in a successful re-entry is employment, without it a former offender can not secure housing, they can not pay court fines, restitution, probation fees, mandated therapies/counseling and they can not provide for themselves or their families. By denying not only business ownership, but employment this equates to a form of banishment from the entire county of Amherst. Which in turn could lead to joblessness, homelessness and vagrancy which ironically is a crime of “Morale Turpitude”. 

A Virginia County can not pass laws banning people including former-offenders from residing within their county, but they have the ability to deny employment in a round about way.

So why would Amherst County deny former-offenders from seeking employment or opening a business especially if they reside in Amherst County? 

Clearly; Amherst County wants to push former-offenders out of their county, but as that would be illegal the next-best-option is eliminating their employment opportunities, a form of indirect banishment. 

Just what are the limitations to which this can be applied? If an Amherst County business owner wanted to eliminate Walmart as a competitor, would the fact that Walmart employs former-offenders in other Virginia counties meet the criteria? Reading the Code I would say yes, if the person who has been given the authority to rule what meets “Moral Turpitude” and what doesn’t, doesn’t like Walmart and since there is no list of which crimes apply and which ones don’t there’s NO recourse for Walmart or whatever business was being targeted. 

Exactly 2 years ago Front Royal Virginia was looking to ban specific citizens from obtaining employment, who was it? It was Registered Sex Offenders (RSO’s). 

I’d be willing to bet the main group of Virginians this Amherst County change in law is intended to be directed toward is, RSO’s. How would Amherst County even know if current employees of local companies have a conviction? Well the VSP Sex Offender Registry would be the easiest and cheapest method to find those who are “morally reprehensible”.

Amherst County has legally created an “us” and “them” community by denying “them” employment options because “they” are deemed immoral, heinous, sinful, despicable, abhorrent and loathsome by “us”. 

Amherst County has left employers/companies no option but to fire current employees who are performing and providing for their family simply because of a past conviction. 

It doesn’t matter how old the conviction is, it doesn’t matter that the former-offender paid their court-order debt to society, it doesn’t matter that the former-offender has been rehabilitated, it doesn’t matter that the former-offender has been forgiven by his victim(s) or that they have children to provide for. 

In Amherst County the person you are today is irrelevant and the crime you committed once possibly decades earlier makes you unworthy of not just obtaining a business license to run your own business but to be employed anywhere in Amherst County. 

Which Virginia Counties and Cities will now follow Amherst’s lead? 

What's next? Owning land? Renting a home? Registering a vehicle? Adopting a pet at the local shelter? These aren't silly examples; they could quite possibly be next. 

When do former-offenders finally get to move past the punishments, vengeance, labels and hate and onto a successful re-entry? 

When does forgiveness and second-chances begin in Virginia for our former-offenders and their families? 

With laws like this, the answer…..sadly……. is never.
 

If you live in Amherst County and you are an RSO you need to be aware of this new law. 

If you live in Amherst County your State Delegate is Ben Cline  http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/house/members/members.php and your State Senator is Tom Garrett http://apps.lis.virginia.gov/sfb1/Senate/EmailList.aspx , I suggest you contact them about this hateful law that adds more barriers to those who have already served their debt to society and must be able to provide for themselves before they can contribute back to society. 

Mary Devoy