You can face long-term consequences, such as difficulty obtaining employment, housing, and education if you have a misdemeanor or felony on your criminal record. In 2021, Virginia passed a new law that will make it easier for you to seal your criminal records. Unfortunately, the law will not go into effect until July 1, 2025. Here is what you need to know about how this new law can help you seal misdemeanor offenses.
Differences Between Expungement and Sealing of Criminal Records
Sealing a criminal record is different from having it expunged. An expungement is a process of removing a criminal charge from a person’s record. In Virginia, an expungement is only possible in limited situations, such as the individual being acquitted of the crime or the prosecutor deciding not to prosecute.
When a criminal record is sealed, it is not erased from a person’s criminal record. However, the number of people who can view it is extremely limited. For example, prospective employers and landlords could not access the criminal record.
In addition, sealing a criminal record may be possible even if the person was convicted of the crime. At present, it is not possible to expunge criminal convictions in Virginia.
Automatic Sealing of Misdemeanor Charges Under Virginia’s Record-Sealing Law
Virginia Code §19.2-392.5-392.17 governs the sealing of criminal records. Certain misdemeanors can be automatically sealed when the law goes into effect in 2025, and you will need to petition the court to seal other charges. If you were charged but not convicted of a misdemeanor offense, the charges will be automatically sealed.
Misdemeanor convictions that will automatically be sealed include:
- Underage alcohol possession
- Petit larceny
- Trespass on posted property after being prohibited or instigating trespass by others
- Marijuana possession
- Non-felony marijuana possession with the intent to deliver
- Disorderly conduct
To be eligible for the automatic sealing of records, these requirements must be met:
- On the date of your conviction, you must not have been convicted of or received a deferred dismissal of an offense not listed above.
- Seven years must have passed since the date of your conviction.
- You must not have been convicted of any other crime in any state during this seven-year period.
Non-Automatic Sealing of Misdemeanors Under Virginia’s New Law
You may be able to ask the court to seal misdemeanors other than DUI or assault and battery of a household member if your conviction would not be automatically sealed. You must meet these requirements:
- You cannot have been convicted of a Class 1 or 2 felony.
- You were not convicted of a Class 3 or 4 felony within the last 20 years.
- You have had no felony convictions in the last 10 years.
- It has been seven years since the date of your conviction.
- You have not been convicted of a crime anywhere in the United States within seven years of your conviction.
- If your offense involved the use of or dependence on alcohol or drugs, you must show you have been rehabilitated.
Do you have questions about your right to have your criminal charges or conviction sealed? Are you facing criminal charges? Call our Manassas office at 888-DUI-LWYR or complete our convenient online form to schedule your free initial consultation with our experienced criminal defense lawyers to learn how we can assist you.