Can I Expunge or Erase My Criminal Record In Virginia?
Yes, you can expunge your criminal record in Virginia, provided you were not convicted of a misdemeanor crime or felony crime. In essence to have your criminal records expunged in Virginia, you must either have been acquitted (found not guilty) or the Commonwealth Attorney must have motioned the court to nolle prosequi you criminal charge. If you get your criminal record expunged, then this means that your record is wiped away clean as to any charges that you were acquitted of or were dropped. Once a criminal record is successfully sealed, it is no longer available to potential employers conducting background checks. It is important to note that Virginia does not expunge criminal convictions.
An expungement in Virginia would physically destroy the records, rendering them completely inaccessible. Sealing would block them from access by members of the public such as landlords doing background checks. But, they still exist and could sometimes be retrieved by law enforcement agencies for specific purposes.
Once a person gets their record expunged, the person may legally deny the existence of the records and may not be denied any permit, license, or employment based upon the expunged records. However, expunged records may be revealed for purposes of an employment application as an employee of a law enforcement agency or for a pending criminal investigation and if that investigation may be jeopardized or that life or property will be endangered without immediate access to the record, based on Virginia Code § 19.2-392.3.
Expungement in Virginia can be a brutal process. There are a number of pitfalls and strategies involved to safely navigate the legal system to achieve the desired result. The Commonwealth laws permit only the truly innocent to have their arrest records expunged. In effect, you need to be found not guilty or have the case voluntarily dismissed by the prosecution. If you otherwise qualify, and the charge was a misdemeanor and you have no prior record, you have an absolute right to an expungement. However, if the charge is a felony and you have prior convictions, the court must find that the continued existence and possible dissemination of information relating to your arrest creates a manifest injustice.
The following the process to obtain an expungement in Virginia:
A criminal background check can be obtained by contacting your local State Police for criminal records or filling out an FBI Applicant Information Form. You can also use third-party services such as private detectives or online criminal record databases.
If you qualify for an expungement in Virginia, you have to file a petition first and have a copy of either the warrant or indictment with the circuit court where the case took place. It must have in it the date of the arrest and the police agency involved in the arrest, what you were charged with, the date the case was finished, your date of birth, and your full name at the time you were arrested. The court will then send a copy to the Commonwealth of the city or county where you filed your petition. The lawyer of the commonwealth will respond to the petition before the 3 weeks.
So often, we have clients who are not able to get the job they way or rent a place of their choice due to them failing a criminal back ground check despite the fact they were acquitted of a criminal charge.
The reality is that a client can get the help they need by filing for an expungement provided they meet the statutory criteria to obtain an expungement.
The first step in the process to file for an expungement is to ensure that the client is eligible for an expungement. Virginia does not expunge criminal convictions, only criminal charges where the person was found not guilty, the case was dismissed nolle prosequi, or otherwise disposed in a manner permitted by Virginia Code Section 19.2-392.2.
Virginia Code Section 19.2-392.2 covers three situations: a judge or jury found the person not guilty of the original charge; the commonwealth attorney moved for a dismissal without prejudice, called nolle prosequi; or the charge was otherwise dismissed.
The following is a detailed process of how to file for an expungement. This is not meant to be legal advice. The goal here is to explain the expungement process in Virginia:
The first step for an individual wanting to have their criminal record wiped clean is to file a Virginia expungement petition. The petition will explain the relevant facts, state the person’s eligibility, and request the relief sought. The petition must also state the arrest date as well as the arresting agency. The petition once completed fully and accurately is filed in the circuit court of the city or county where the case was heard. It also includes the exact charge to be expunged. A certified copy of the arrest warrant, obtained from the clerk of the General District Court or Circuit, is attached to the petition.
A copy of the 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 the convicted person’s fingerprints is sent to the Central Criminal Records Exchange (CCRE) with a copy of the petition. The CCRE sends the fingerprints to the court with a copy of the person’s criminal history and a copy of the charge that is to be expunged.
With all that information, the court sets a date for hearing on the matter. If in the judgment of the Circuit Court the accused meets the statutory criteria, 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 the moving party, or their counsel, of the completion of the process.
As a result of the Internet, potential employers frequently have access to criminal records through online services. Such information may result in you being prejudiced as to employment and living arrangements. If you have any charge on your record that you feel is unjustly causing you harm or discrimination in employment or housing, contact a Virginia expungement attorney who is experienced in expungement proceedings. You will be able to start the proceedings that can wipe your slate clean in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The SRIS Law Group can help you best possible outcome based on the facts of your case. If you wish to consult an SRIS Law Group, P.C. expungement attorney in VA, call us at 888-437-7747.
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