RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Barry Hardy enjoys performing, producing and engineering music. As much as he gets satisfaction from it, it's not enough to put food on the table regularly. That's been a challenge his whole adult life because of what he calls a "stupid mistake" as a teenager.
"I wish I could just rewind the time I was in the store," Hardy said.
It all started with a dare when he was 18.
"I'm 26, and it's still on my record."
Hardy was caught stealing candy from a convenience store - candy that he says he then sold at his high school.
"The teachers would buy it, everybody in the class would buy it right when I came in the class," Hardy said.
He was eventually caught and convicted of petit larceny, a misdemeanor.
"The officer was right at my mom's house by the time I got home, and when I figured out my mom knew, I would have rather gone to jail," Hardy said.
But it was no laughing matter. It wasn't until years later that he would realize how serious it really was.
"My mindset was, it would probably go away after around eight years, because my punishment for it was only 30 days of community service," Hardy said.
It didn't, and recently he found that out in a painful way when he got a letter turning him down for a job because of that misdemeanor from his youth.
"It was heartbreaking, because I know I made mistakes in the past, but I didn't think it would still haunt me to this day," Hardy said. "Something as little as stealing candy when I was younger, jeopardizing me from getting a job now."
Over the years, Hardy says he's had trouble getting jobs. He believes the minor offense has been holding him back. It's why he reached out to 12 On Your Side to find out what he can do to clear his record.
On Your Side Investigator Eric Philips consulted attorney Steve Benjamin, who says he gets at least one call a week on this very issue letting him know people just aren't aware.
"If you've been convicted of a crime, no matter how minor it might be in Virginia, that conviction is a matter of your record for the rest of your life, and there's no way to remove it," Benjamin said.
Well, almost no way. Benjamin says the governor does have the power to remove it.
"Sure he has the power," Benjamin said. "Is it exercised in these cases? No, not at all."
Benjamin says each year, including this year, a member of the Virginia General Assembly introduces a bill to temper the law so that some minor crimes will eventually go away with good behavior. Such legislation never goes anywhere, and neither does even a minor conviction - a lesson Hardy learned the hard way.
"But that doesn't define my nature and who I am now," Hardy said.
Hardy says he can get a job at a place that hires felons, but he feels he should be able to do better, because he's not a felon. He offers this word of advice to others when it comes to breaking the law - don't do it.
"You don't want that on your record for life, because I can't even get a job at Target," Hardy said.
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