If you have an arrest record or any prior convictions, you know just how difficult it can be to find a new job, apply for school, or qualify for housing. If you qualify for expungement, you may be able to remove certain information from your records and significantly improve your quality of life.
What Is Expungement?
Expungement is the legal process of removing or erasing the record of someone’s arrest or criminal conviction. The process of expunging records can look very different across jurisdictions. Some courts simply prohibit access to expunged records, while others actually destroy physical files and remove them from the system entirely.
What Is the Difference Between Sealing Records and Expungement?
In some states, expunging records is distinct from sealing them. In Virginia, however, the two terms are more or less interchangeable.
The Commonwealth of Virginia defines expungement as placing a record in a secure location and only allowing specific people access to it for certain reasons. On the other hand, sealing records means transferring a record to a confidential and secure location that is not accessible for normal use.
Effectively, sealing and expunging a record in Virginia mean the same thing. Whether your record is sealed or expunged, others can only access it for a few specific purposes. Even then, they are required to get a court order first. This means most employers, landlords, and other non-government actors will be denied access.
What Crimes Are Eligible for Expungement in Virginia?
Before July 1, 2021, only records for dismissed criminal charges or those which resulted in not-guilty verdicts were eligible for expungement in Virginia. If you were arrested and charged for a crime but ultimately not convicted, you could file a petition asking the court to expunge records of:
- Dismissals, with or without prejudice (also referred to as “nolle prosequi”)
- Dismissals by accord and satisfaction
- Not-guilty verdicts
- Arrests that did not result in a conviction
- Charges resulting from mistaken or fraudulent identity
- Certain juvenile crime convictions
Starting in 2024, Virginia’s new expungement laws also allow you to petition for misdemeanor convictions, dismissal-deferrals, and even certain low-grade felony convictions to be sealed. To file an expungement petition, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- No previous class 1 or class 2 felony convictions
- No class 3 or class 4 felony convictions within the past 20 years
- No other felony convictions at all within the past ten years
However, records of the following criminal convictions are still not eligible for expungement:
- Class 1, 2, 3, or 4 felonies
- Involuntary vehicular or watercraft manslaughter or maiming
- Assault and battery of a family member
- Driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI)
Why Do I Need an Expungement Lawyer?
Although expungement is relatively easy to understand, the process of actually having your records expunged can be quite complicated. A knowledgeable lawyer with experience handling expungement cases can:
- Help you understand what general searches reveal about your criminal records
- Identify which records may be eligible for expungement or automatic sealing
- Prepare and file all necessary paperwork for your expungement petition
- Represent you before the court, if necessary
How Whitestone Young, PC Can Help
At Whitestone Young, PC, our experienced Virginia expungement lawyers can help you remove unwanted details from your criminal record and start fresh. To learn more about whether you may be eligible for expungement in Virginia, contact us today to get started with your initial case evaluation.