A criminal record can have long-term consequences on your life, including your ability to obtain a professional license, employment, and housing. So if possible, you'd like your criminal record expunged once you complete the terms of your sentence, especially if your crime was relatively minor. However, expungement isn't a right, and you can only obtain this outcome in limited circumstances in Virginia.
What Is an Expungement?
An expungement is the legal process of removing all records of your arrest and criminal charge from public access. When an expungement is granted, all public access requests to your records held by the Virginia State Courts, the Virginia Criminal Information Network, and the National Crime Information Network would be denied. In some instances, this is referred to as "sealing" the records.
An expungement may also give you the right to treat the offense as if it didn't occur. However, doesn't necessarily mean your criminal record would be destroyed.
When Can You Get an Expungement in Virginia?
While some juvenile records might qualify for automatic eligibility of expungement in our state, and other conditions may allow people past a certain age of their offenses as a minor to petition the court for expungement.
However, adult criminal records expungement is extremely limited in Virginia. Convictions can never be expunged. You may be eligible for expungement in these situations:
- You pled not guilty and were acquitted of the charges by a judge or jury.
- You were charged with contempt of court in a civil case but were acquitted.
- You are the defendant in a criminal case where the prosecutor decides not to prosecute and abandons all charges—usually through a motion nolle prosecui.
- Your name or identity was stolen and used in another crime.
- You were convicted of a crime but received an absolute pardon.
- You were charged with assault or battery or another misdemeanor where there is no civil remedy. In addition, the victim stated in writing that the issue has been satisfactorily resolved, and the case must have been dismissed.
Based upon some recent case law, there is one other limited scenario where adult expungement is possible: before the conviction. In other words, given that Virginia doesn't allow the expungement of any convictions for any reason at any time, the time to challenge the charge is now. While it may not be possible for everyone to get their charges dismissed, the only opportunity you have is to fight the charge or have it reduced is now.
If you need to seek an expungement or have been charged with a crime, call our office today to schedule a free consultation to learn how our experienced criminal defense team can help you build your defense.