If you have a charge on your criminal record, and you would like to get it removed, a Virginia criminal expungement lawyer can help.
There are many reasons to seek expungement of your Virginia criminal record. The primary reason most people contact us is because they don’t want the record to show up on a background check at work or school.
Perhaps you need to clean up your record to apply for a job. Or, you are applying to school, and you need to seal your criminal record before sending in your application. Or, you need a government national security clearance for work.
Once the record is expunged under Virginia law, it is permanently sealed or purged. It will never appear in any database when your landlord, admissions counselor, or boss runs a criminal history. Expungement means gone forever.
Whatever the reason that you need to seal your criminal record, Virginia law allows you to request that certain charges or convictions be permanently deleted, wiped clean, and expunged from its files.
How to Get an Expungement in Virginia
Here’s how to get started obtaining a criminal record expungement.
Step #1 – Do You Qualify?
The first thing you need to find out is if you qualify to get a charge expunged from your record. In Virginia, only certain charges can be expunged, and an experienced lawyer can review your record and let you know if you qualify.
In general, the charge must have been dismissed to be expunged from your permanent record. Either you were acquitted or found not guilty. Or, the charge was otherwise dismissed, whether by the prosecutor (a “nolle prosequi”) or after compliance with a deferred disposition.
Speak with a Virginia expungement lawyer to find out if you qualify. It is better to have someone who has been through the process take a look at your record, and let you know what the outcome is likely to be in court, then go through the trouble of the next several steps only to find out that you do not qualify. Plus, an expungement lawyer can help position your case to advocate for expungement.
Step #2 – Prepare a Petition
Once you know that you qualify, it is time to prepare a petition to the court formally requesting that the charge be expunged from your record.
Here’s what Virginia Code Section 19.2-392.2(C) requires:
- File a petition with a copy of the warrant or indictment to be expunged in the circuit court of the county or city in which the case was disposed of by acquittal or otherwise dismissed; or,
- If the warrant or indictment to be expunged is not reasonably available, file a petition with the reason for such unavailability, the date of arrest and the name of the arresting agency in the circuit court of the county or city in which the case was disposed of by acquittal or otherwise dismissed.
The petition shall state the specific criminal charge to be expunged, the date of final disposition, the petitioner’s date of birth, and the full name used by the petitioner at the time of arrest.
After the filing the petition, here’s what must be done next:
- Serve a copy of the filed petition on the Commonwealth’s Attorney for the city or county where the petition is filed.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney shall object or answer the petition within 21 days after it is served on him. Or, the Commonwealth’s Attorney can state that he does not object to the petition.
Step #3 – Submit Your Fingerprints
After you file the petition, you must go to a law enforcement agency, e.g. a police department or sheriff’s office, to obtain a complete set of your fingerprints. When you are getting your fingerprints taken, you need to provide the law enforcement agency with a copy of your petition. The law enforcement agency will submit the fingerprints and petition to the Central Criminal Records Exchange (CCRE).
When the CCRE receives your fingerprints and petition, it will process them and send the following documents under seal to the court where your petition is pending: a copy of your criminal history, a copy of the source documents that results in the charge that you want to expunge, and the fingerprints.
Step #4 – Attend a Hearing
After the court receives your petition, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s response, and the sealed documents from the criminal records exchange, it will set a hearing.
You or your attorney may need to attend the hearing to request a court order granting the expungement. This process can take several weeks or months depending on the court’s docket.
At the hearing the court will consider whether you have complied with each of the statutory requirements and met the burden under the statute. It will consider two issues:
- Do you qualify for expungement?
- If you qualify, have you shown that the continued existence and possible dissemination of information relating to your arrest causes or may cause circumstances which constitute a manifest injustice?
As you can see, it is helpful to have an experienced Virginia expungement lawyer prepare the petition and argue on your behalf at the hearing. The court is not guaranteed to grant expungement merely because the charge was dismissed. You must also show that the continued existence of the charge on your record would constitute a manifest injustice. An expungement lawyer can help shape arguments in your favor to successfully obtain an expungement of your record.
Step #5 – Obtain an Order
After the court grants your petition for expungement, the court will enter an order requiring the expungement of the police and court records related to the charge. The clerk of the court shall forward a copy of the order to the Department of State Police, which shall, pursuant to its established polices and procedures, direct the expungement or removal of such records.
Do You Need a Criminal Record Expunged?
If you need a criminal record expunged in order to apply for a job, school, or security clearance, then you should contact a Virginia expungement lawyer who can help you through the process.