The existence of criminal charges on your record can have detrimental implications on employment, housing, and other social programs. Clearing your record of these arrests through an expungement is your only recourse. In Virginia, convictions are forever; however, in Virginia, it is possible to expunge your criminal record. This means that you can have your criminal arrests, criminal offenses, criminal charges, and criminal convictions hidden from public view, under very limited circumstances.
What is The Benefit of Expunging Criminal Records?
Many people are worried about applying for a job with a criminal charge on their record. If the case ended in a nolle prosequi, an acquittal, or another type of dismissal you may be able to have the charge removed from your record so that future employers will not see it. This can be incredibly important when applying for a job or a professional license or even when getting an apartment. In some cases, you may be able to have your record expunged or sealed so that the public, such as prospective employers or landlords, may no longer see it. Virginia’s laws on this procedure are very restrictive, but your criminal record may qualify under certain circumstances. However, if you were convicted, the passage of time will not allow you to get the charge expunged even if it is a misdemeanor. Some other states allow for an expungement based simply on the passage of a number of years, whereas in Virginia this is not the case.
How Does Criminal Record Expunction Work?
To have your criminal record expunged means that the information is treated as confidential, although your criminal records are not physically destroyed or erased. When a record is expunged, it is removed from public access and sealed. As such, expunged records are not accessible to landlords and most employers. After your record is expunged, you are legally allowed to state that the offense never occurred and that the record does not exist.
Are All Criminal Records Eligible for Expungement?
Under State of Virginia’s law, you may petition to have your records expunged in limited cases. The following are eligible for expungement:
- A defendant in a criminal case who pleads “not guilty” and is then acquitted by a judge or jury.
- A person in a civil action who is charged with contempt of court but is found not guilty.
- A defendant in a criminal case that the Commonwealth Attorney’s office decides not to prosecute (nolle prosequi) for all charges.
- A defendant charged with assault and battery or other misdemeanor for which the defendant could also be sued in a civil action, if the injured person states in writing s/he has received satisfaction for the injury and the case is dismissed.
- A person whose name or identification has been used without consent or authorization in a criminal case (identity theft).
- A defendant convicted of a crime who later receives an absolute pardon.
How Do I Get Records Expunged?
The first step to have your criminal records expunged in Virginia is to file a petition. The petition explains the relevant facts, states your eligibility, and your request. The petition includes details of your arrest, such as the exact charge to be expunged, the arrest date as well as the arresting agency. It is filed in the circuit court of the city or county where the case was heard. You must secure a certified copy of the arrest warrant from the clerk of the General District Court or Circuit and attach this to your petition.
A copy of your petition is then served on the Commonwealth Attorney in the city or county of the original charge. The Commonwealth Attorney has twenty-one (21) days to file an objection to the petition or answer it. Next, a set of your fingerprints is sent to the Central Criminal Records Exchange (CCRE) with a copy of your petition. The CCRE sends your fingerprints to the court with a copy of your criminal history and a copy of the charge that is to be expunged.
After all these have been complied with, the court sets a date for hearing to decide if your record is eligible for expungement. If the court decides in your favor, the copy of the decision is then forwarded to the Virginia State Police. The State Police will then follow the Order, removing the charge from their records as well as associated agencies. After a reasonable period, the State Police will notify you or your criminal defense attorney of the completion of the records expungement
Do I Need A Lawyer’s Help In Having My Criminal Records Expunged in Virginia?
Petitioning for expungement is a complicated matter and the laws may be amended at any given time. It is very beneficial to seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney to check if your record qualifies for expungement and to review the details of your case. If you or anyone you know has any charge on record that you believe is unjustly causing you harm or discrimination in employment or housing, contact a Virginia criminal defense lawyer who is knowledgeable in expungement proceedings. Doing so will enable you to start the proceedings that can wipe your slate clean in the Commonwealth of Virginia.