“Barrier Crimes” and Employment in Virginia

"Barrier crimes" are criminal offenses that bar you from certain jobs upon conviction. Generally, they relate to nursing homes, commercial drivers, and first responders.

In many states, including Virginia, certain criminal convictions can bar you from holding certain jobs.

These crimes are commonly referred to as “barrier crimes,” and they affect far more people than you might realize.

In this article, we will talk about some of the most common barrier crimes which restrict employment in Virginia.

Remember, if you are considering whether or not to plead guilty to a crime, always ask your lawyer about your future employability.

A good Virginia criminal defense lawyer will be able to tell you whether your offense is a barrier crime, and if so, what kinds of job it might bar you from.

Collateral Consequences, Barrier Crimes, and Employability

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To begin, there is a difference between a potential employer refusing to hire you because of a criminal conviction and them being unable to hire you because of a barrier crime.

By definition, a barrier crime is a criminal offense that legally prohibits certain individuals from holding certain forms of employment.

While an employer may choose not to hire an individual with a criminal history, the Virginia Code (and federal law) explicitly prohibits certain employers from hiring people who’ve committed certain crimes.

Barrier Crimes by Occupation: A Quick Rundown

Generally speaking, there are two types of crimes which legally restrict employment.

First, many industries are prohibited from hiring individuals who’ve committed a “crime of moral turpitude.”

These crimes are generally defined as anything which inflicts meaningful physical, emotional, or financial harm on another.

Second, certain federal and Virginia statutes restrict whether or not people who’ve committed a particular crime can get a job in a related industry.

For example, if you commit a felony traffic crime, you might end up barred from certain transportation jobs.

We’ll list a few of the most common barrier crimes by occupation below.

Commercial Drivers

As noted above, if you’ve committed any felony while driving a commercial motor vehicle, a part of your sentence is that you will be disqualified from holding a commercial driver’s license for a period of one year.

However, if you commit two or more offenses within ten years, you may be barred for life.

In the same way, if you were transporting hazardous materials at the time, the Code bars your employment for three years instead.

First Responders, Emergency Medical Technicians, and Drivers

First responders, EMTs, and EMT drivers must all submit to background checks to be eligible for employment.

If they are found to have committed any of the following offenses, the Virginia Code permanently bars them from employment:

  • Sexual crimes in which the lack of the victim’s consent was an element
  • Crimes involving the abuse of children or the elderly
  • Making or distributing child pornography

Additionally, if you commit a crime related to the possession, distribution, or use of a controlled substance, you will not be eligible for employment for five years. The same applies for any felony.

Nursing Home Staff

In Virginia, barrier crimes most often bar employment in the health industry.

According to Virginia law, a person convicted of any of a large number of offenses cannot work in a licensed nursing home.

Virginia nursing homes are required to strictly uphold this law through background checks on new employees.

Namely, there are around 175 criminal offenses in the Virginia code which can bar you from holding a job in a nursing home.

Generally, however, all of these offenses center around the following issues:

  • Violent crimes, such as murder, assault, stalking, and crimes involving firearms
  • Crimes of abuse or neglect
  • Crimes involving children
  • Hate crimes

Pharmacists and Pharmacist Technicians

Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians must clear a background check to prove that they’ve never been convicted of drug-related crimes in any state.

In addition, pharmacist technicians may be denied licensure due to a conviction for any crime of moral turpitude.

Real Estate Agents and Brokers

Under Virginia law, no person may work as a real estate agent or broker if they have:

  • Committed any felony
  • Been involved in any crime of moral turpitude
  • Committed one of several different sexual offenses
  • Participated in the creation or trafficking of controlled substances
  • Been involved in any assault, battery, and other crimes resulting in injury to the victim
  • Committed any violations of fair housing laws


Many types of work in the private security sector, including electronic security, require extensive background checks.

A check that finds any criminal convictions of the following types will bar you from employment in the security sector:

  • Any felony
  • Crimes of moral turpitude
  • Assault and battery
  • Crimes involving damage to real or personal property
  • The possession, creation, or trafficking of controlled substances
  • Sexual crimes
  • Firearms-related offenses

Upon written request, the Director of the Department of Criminal Justice Services may waive this prohibition for specific individuals.

Criminal Record Expungement, Pardons, and Certificates of Rehabilitation

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Normally, the offense will only bar you from employment if the court actually finds you guilty of a crime.

If you are only arrested, or if your defense is successful, you won’t have to worry about the mandatory penalties listed above.

On the other hand, a pardon is not sufficient to lift barriers to employment in Virginia.

Similarly, petitioning for an expungement is an uphill battle in Virginia, and isn’t really an option in most cases due to the Commonwealth’s tight restrictions.

Further, while some states allow former convicts to receive certificates of rehabilitation that lift bars to employment, Virginia does not.

For this reason, a criminal conviction may affect your employment opportunities for the rest of your life.

Before pleading guilty to a crime, you should speak with your attorney about how the conviction might affect your future chances at gaining employment.


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Any criminal conviction can have significant and permanent consequences when it comes to one’s future employment.

This is particularly true for barrier crimes, which can bar you from a variety of jobs in Virginia.

For this reason, you should always think carefully before pleading guilty to any charges.

Always talk over your charges with an attorney before entering a plea.

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A Client-First Approach to Legal Services

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We’re a Richmond, Virginia law firm with clients from around the world. Schedule your free phone consultation today and let’s talk about what we can do for you!