Being convicted of a crime can have significant repercussions for defendants, who could face imprisonment and expensive fines, in addition to the creation of a criminal record. The latter tends to have particularly far-reaching consequences, as having a criminal record can make it difficult to obtain employment and secure housing.
Unfortunately, expunging one’s criminal record in Virginia is only permitted when the criminal proceedings ended with a dismissal or acquittal. To learn more about the expungement process in Virginia, please contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can advise you.
What is Expungement?
Expungement is a process by which an individual who has been arrested for and charged with a crime, but who was not convicted, can have all court and police records related to the case sealed from public view. This does not, however, mean that the records will be destroyed, only that they will be removed from public view and can only be seen if a court gives permission as part of a later investigation.
Who Can Expunge Their Criminal Records?
In Virginia, only certain individuals can request that their criminal records be expunged, including:
- Defendants who plead not guilty to a criminal charge and were acquitted by a judge or jury;
- Defendants whose cases were dismissed due to a prosecutor’s decision not to pursue charges;
- Defendants who were charged with misdemeanors for which they were also sued in civil court, but only if the injured party received satisfaction for the injury and the case was dismissed;
- Victims of identity theft whose names or identification was used without their consent in a criminal case; and
- Defendants who were convicted of a criminal offense, but who later received a pardon from the governor.
Those who were under the age of 18 years old when they were convicted of a crime can also request an expungement. In fact, most juvenile records are automatically expunged once the person turns 19 years old or when five years have passed since the date of their last hearing. If, however, the petitioner was convicted of a crime that would have been a felony if he or she had been an adult at the time, the arrest and court records won’t automatically be destroyed. DMV records related to juvenile crime, on the other hand, are always expunged when a person reaches 29 years of age. It is also possible for a juvenile to apply for expungement before this deadline if:
- He or she was the subject of a traffic or delinquency proceeding;
- He or she was found innocent; or
- The proceeding was dismissed.
Petitioning the Court for Expungement
Requesting that a criminal record be expunged is a complicated process and requires the submission of a formal petition, as well as:
- A copy of the warrant or indictment from the court;
- The date of the arrest and name of the arresting agency;
- A copy of the order of acquittal or dismissal;
- A statement explaining the specific charge in question;
- The date of the case’s final disposition;
- The petitioner’s name and birth date; and
- The petitioner’s fingerprint card obtained from the arresting agency.
All of this information must be sent to the proper court, as well as the arresting law enforcement agency, and the local prosecutor’s office. Failing to observe any of these procedural requirements could jeopardize the motion itself, resulting in a dismissal of the petition.
Formal Expungement Hearings
Before making a determination, a judge will hold a hearing on the petition to determine whether the existence and potential dissemination of information related to a petitioner’s arrest would be manifestly unjust to that individual. If approved, an order will be issued, expunging all police and court records, including electronic records, related to the charge.
There are, however, a couple of exceptions to this rule, under which courts are required to enter an order of expungement. For instance, courts are required to enter an order of expungement when:
- A petitioner doesn’t have a prior criminal record; and
- The arrest in question was for a misdemeanor violation.
Similarly, courts can enter an order of expungement without holding a hearing if:
- The state provides the court with a written notice stating that it does not object to the petition; and
- The charge in question is a felony and the state stipulates that the continued existence of the petitioner’s arrest record would be manifestly unjust to the petitioner.
Call Today for Help with Your Case
Please call 703-591-0200 today to speak with one of the experienced criminal defense lawyers at Whitestone Young, PC about your own eligibility for expungement.