If you are arrested for a misdemeanor or felony in Virginia, you will have a permanent criminal record that can have long-term consequences on your life. In limited circumstances, you may be able to have your criminal record expunged if you were not convicted of the crime.
Understanding What an Expungement Is
An expungement is the sealing of police and court records of an arrest from access by the public. The records are not destroyed and can be viewed by law enforcement if they are granted permission by a court. You only are eligible for an expungement in very limited situations:
- You pled not guilty and was acquitted at a trial in a criminal case.
- The prosecutor decided to prosecute you for any offenses.
- You were charged with contempt of court in a civil case but were found not guilty.
- You were arrested for a misdemeanor offense where you faced civil liability as well, and the victim signs a statement that he was fully compensated and the case was dismissed.
- You were the victim of identity theft.
- You were found guilty but received a full pardon.
How to Obtain an Expungement
Even if you are eligible for an expungement, there is no automatic right to have criminal records expunged. You will need to file a Petition for Expungement of Criminal Record in the circuit court in the county where you were arrested. Here are some of the steps you will need to take:
- File the petition with a certified copy of the criminal charges. You will need four additional copies of both.
- Serve the prosecutor with a copy of the petition and a certified copy of the charges. They will have 21 days to file a response to your petition.
- Obtain a complete set of fingerprints from a law enforcement agency. You must provide them with a copy of your petition. They will check your criminal history and file a copy of your criminal record with the court.
- You may be required to attend a court hearing where the judge will decide whether to grant your petition.
- If your petition is granted, your fingerprints should be returned to you. You will need to follow up with the police department and State Police to be certain that the expungement of your records is completed.
As you can see, obtaining an expungement is complicated, and there is no guarantee that you would be granted one. However, you can increase the likelihood of a successful outcome by retaining an experienced expungement lawyer to guide you through the process. Call my office to schedule a free consultation to find out how I have successfully helped other clients and how I can assist you.