Living with a criminal record in Virginia can be challenging and may limit your ability to move forward, Marks against you can be detrimental to your career, restrict where you can live, or prohibit your ability to own firearms. Sealing your record with an expungement can alleviate many of these concerns, but only if certain conditions apply.
With very few exceptions, criminal convictions in Virginia cannot be expunged. This remedy is usually only available to people who were arrested and charged, but ultimately not found not guilty of wrongdoing. Expungement in Virginia is essentially the same as sealing your record. This means that the official record of your arrest and charges are not destroyed, but kept on file with the court and only shared with law enforcement agencies when necessary. Furthermore, expungement is not an automatic process for adult offenders.
Just because you were not convicted does not mean your record will be cleared. Instead, you must file a petition with the court to request the expungement of your record. During the expungement process, the local prosecutor can review the matter, and may argue against your expungement based on various circumstances. For these reasons, you should retain an expungement lawyer who understands the process and can counter any arguments against clearing your record.
Who Qualifies for an Expungement in Virginia?
Virginia law allows for expungements in the following circumstances:
- You were acquitted of the crime you were charged with
- Your charges were dismissed because the prosecutor decided not to move forward with the case, which is called “Nolle prosequi.”
- You were charged with a misdemeanor, and the case was dismissed after the victim requested that the charges be withdrawn
- Your charges were dismissed for other reasons, in which case you may or may not qualify for expungement
- You were the victim of identity theft, and the perpetrator was charged under your name
- You were convicted of a crime, but received an absolute pardon
- You were convicted of a misdemeanor as a child
The last two situations are the only exceptions to the general rule that convictions cannot be expunged in Virginia. If you were convicted as a juvenile, your record can be expunged after you reach the age of 19 and five years have elapsed since your conviction. For motor vehicle code violations, your record will be cleared by the time you reach age 29. As for pardons, this is a rare situation that usually requires years of advocacy at the highest levels of state government.
An Expungement Lawyer Can Help With the Process
Engaging an experienced legal professional is typically necessary if you want to expunge a criminal record in Virginia successfully. First, you will need to file your petition for expungement in the court in which you were charged, and if possible include the original warrant or indictment. You will need to specify the offense you were charged with, provide proof of the final disposition, and request a copy of your criminal history to be forwarded to the court. You must also send a copy of your petition to the district attorney who prosecuted your case, who may decide to object to your request.
The reasons a prosecutor might object to your expungement can vary, but you may need to attend and argue your case at an expungement hearing. This is because a Virginia court is only legally bound to expunge a record if you were the victim of identity theft, or your conviction was subjected to an absolute pardon. In other situations, the court has the discretion to deny expungement in the following scenarios:
- If you were charged with a misdemeanor and have had a clear record, you are entitled to expungement unless the court finds good cause to deny your petition
- If you were charged with a felony, or you’ve had run-ins with the law since you were last charged, the court will only expunge your record if you show that the dissemination of information about your arrest causes “manifest injustice.”
Consult a Roanoke Criminal Defense Attorney
By working with an experienced expungement lawyer, you can give your petition the best chance of succeeding. The expungement hearing is often a significant roadblock for people hoping for an expungement, so it’s essential to have a lawyer in your corner who can build a strong case showing that you are deserving of this remedy.