From Amherst County (Virginia) ordinance No. 2015-0004 (enacted May 19, 2015):
The County issues business licenses for the privilege of doing business or exercising a trade, profession, occupation, vocation, calling, or activity in the County. The [Amherst County Commissioner of Revenue] may withdraw the privilege of doing business or exercising a trade, profession, occupation, vocation, calling, or activity by revoking a business license if the licensee: …
Has been convicted in any court of a felony or of any crime or offense involving moral turpitude under the laws of any state, or of the United States, or knowingly employs in the business conducted under such license, as agent, servant, or employee, any person who has been convicted in any court of a felony or of any crime or offense involving moral turpitude.
So if you have a felony conviction, or a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude — e.g., petty theft or making a false statement — then you could be stripped of your business license, so you can’t go into business for yourself. And if you’re working for someone else, the Commissioner can demand that you be fired; if you’re not fired, that counts as the employer’s “failure to take effective” “remedial action,” and your employer can be stripped of its license.
Thus, if you have any felony (or misdemeanor “moral turpitude”) conviction in Amherst County, your livelihood is at the mercy of the Commissioner of Revenue. True, your employer could appeal the Commissioner’s decision to the County Board of Supervisors, or possibly to a court (which would then likely apply a rather deferential standard of review, given that the ordinance gives the Commissioner discretion). But that will only help if the employer goes to the expense, trouble, and political risk of going to bat for you, rather than just taking the easy way out and firing you on the government’s demand.
And this isn’t limited to particular job categories and particular criminal histories (e.g., barring people with child sex abuse records from working in day care centers, barring people with recent DUIs from driving trucks, and so on). If the Commissioner wishes, anyone with the specified kind of conviction could essentially be disqualified from pretty much any job in the County. Better not get on the Commissioner’s bad side, or have your employer get on the Commissioner’s bad side.
Perhaps I’m mistaken, but this sort of discretionary control over people’s lives is not how a free country should work — even as to people who have committed crimes, once their prison term and probation term is over. Kipling put it well in general:
All we have of freedom, all we use or know —
This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.
Ancient Right unnoticed as the breath we draw —
Leave to live by no man’s leave, underneath the Law.
It’s more like “leave to live by the Commissioner of Revenue’s leave, underneath the Commissioner’s discretion” in Amherst County, so long as you have any conviction for felony, misdemeanor petty theft, misdemeanor false statement, and the like.
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