Getting a Charge Expunged After Plea Bargain

In many cases that are resolved by plea bargain, the prosecutor usually agrees to reduce the charge.

Under Virginia law, does that mean you can get the original charge expunged and seal your criminal record?

It depends on how the plea bargain was structured. Generally, an amended charge cannot be expunged if you pled guilty or no contest to a “lesser included charge,” even if the plea bargain included a deferred dismissal.

However, if the prosecutor amended the charge as part of the plea bargain to a completely different offense – say, from possession of marijuana to reckless driving – then you might have a way to get the original charge expunged and your criminal record sealed.

Virginia law allows you to expunge a charge that has been “otherwise dismissed.” When a charge gets amended to a completely different charge, a Virginia court may agree that the original charge was “otherwise dismissed,” and therefore you can get expungement.

Drug Charge Expunged After Plea Reduction

Consider a recent decision by the Supreme Court of Virginia.

In Dressner v. Commonwealth, 285 Va. 1 (2013), the Supreme Court of Virginia determined whether records pertaining to a possession of marijuana charge could be expunged and sealed. The marijuana charge was amended by the prosecutor to reckless driving – a completely different offense. The Court held that since the elements of reckless driving are different than possession of marijuana, the original charge of possession of marijuana was “otherwise dismissed” for the purposes of expungement – and allowed the petitioner to expunge and permanently seal the marijuana charge.

This was a great result for the petitioner. He got to clean up his criminal record, remove any reference to the drug charge, and protect his reputation. There is no doubt that getting an expungement helped avoid any setbacks in his career because the charge was sealed, and thus, it was shielded from any background checks.

Do You Qualify for Expungement?

If you need to clean up your criminal record for work or school, consider speaking with a Virginia expungement lawyer about your case.