A conviction on a person’s record might make it difficult to get employment, professional licensure, or the ability to vote. Even if a criminal case does not end in a formal conviction, the arrest and criminal prosecution record may persist, presenting similar problems.
Many convictions and arrest records may be sealed under certain circumstances, making them inaccessible to anyone except law enforcement agents. In some situations, the person’s record may be expunged, which means that the criminal record is fully wiped from public records.
Virginia expungement laws provide a person the legal right to say that a record does not exist if questioned about it.
How Do I Expunge a Conviction in Virginia?
Under Virginia expungement laws, expungement for a conviction is possible under the following conditions:
- If the defendant’s criminal charges were dismissed, or if the defendant was acquitted or awarded an unconditional pardon
- Another defendant was apprehended using the individual’s name or identification (i.e., identity theft)
- The crime was a misdemeanor, and the perpetrator was a first-time offender
- The expungement procedure allows for the deletion of DNA records and the destruction of DNA samples
After a certain amount of time, juvenile records are usually erased.
In addition, juvenile records may be erased if the case is dropped or a judge determines that the defendant is innocent.
Please keep in mind that even though a conviction has been erased, information about the records may still be acquired in the following circumstances:
- A conviction record is required for an ongoing criminal inquiry.
- Unless quick access to the record is permitted, the record is required for an inquiry in which life or property is at risk.
- Expunged records may still be exposed for some job applications, particularly those involving government or law enforcement posts.
Those who seek to have a felony conviction erased may do so in person or by mail via Virginia’s County Circuit Court system.
A petition entails filing and service costs, as well as the submission of critical documents.
Multiple copies of the form “Petition for Expungement of Record” and a certified copy of the charges included in the request are examples of such papers.
Virginia First Time Offender Expungement
Certain lower-level convictions, including misdemeanors and Class 5 and 6 crimes (the lowest tiers of felonies) and traffic violations, may possibly be sealed after ten years, according to legislation recently approved in Virginia.
However, not all convictions are eligible for sealing. For example, driving under the influence (DUI) is not one of the convictions that may be sealed.
Similarly, after ten years, some offenses are automatically sealed. This covers, among other things, driving violations and underage alcohol purchases.
Other instances in which records are automatically sealed include, but are not limited to, situations of mistaken identification.
The legislation will not be fully implemented until July 2025, although significant aspects have already taken effect.
This new Virginia expungement statute does not apply to all convictions, but if you are a first-time offender convicted of a lower charge, you may be eligible for expungement.
A hearing will be scheduled if the Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorney does not oppose your petition for expungement. For example, being convicted of a higher-level crime (Class 3 or 4) within the past 20 years might be grounds for rejection.
You will have to persuade the court that your record should be erased at your hearing. Depending on the nature of the conviction or the offender’s background, this may be challenging.
If you were convicted of marijuana possession, for example, you may need to show that you have been rehabilitated since then.
What Is the Distinction Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?
Unlike misdemeanors, felonies often result in sentences of more than one year. Some felonies may seem to be identical to misdemeanors; nevertheless, they generally involve larger property loss and destruction, or more severe physical injury.
For example, inflicting physical harm may be a Class A misdemeanor. If the physical harm resulted in death, the misdemeanor charge will very certainly be upgraded to a felony charge (e.g., murder or homicide).
Also, certain “aggravating elements” might elevate a misdemeanor offense into a felony prosecution. The use of a lethal weapon, repetitive crimes, deceiving or impersonating a government official, and assault or battery on a police officer or a small kid are all factors that might lead to this.
Finally, although misdemeanor charges stay on a person’s record, they may be eligible for expungement (or record cleaning) after a set period of time, and they are considerably simpler to get cleared than felony charges.
What Is the Difference Between Record Sealing and Expungement?
The major distinction between record sealing and expungement is that criminal records “exist” even if they are sealed. The files and information are still there, but employers and others cannot access them.
It is a regular procedure for a person’s juvenile criminal files to be sealed after they reach the age of 18 (though they can sometimes still be accessed via court order).
In contrast, expungement involves the real elimination or erasure of criminal charges and arrest records as if they never happened.
Certain charges may be more difficult to remove than others. For instance, petty crimes are generally more readily wiped out than felony ones.
What Should I Expect from an Expungement Lawyer Interview?
It is critical to prepare for your initial meeting with an expungement lawyer. Expungements need a thorough legal and factual examination. The lawyer will need a lot of information to analyze your claim and offer proper legal advice. While each lawyer has a unique interview procedure, the following are some frequent questions:
1. Where Did the Offense Happen?
A lawyer cannot provide you with proper advice unless they understand which laws apply to your situation.
Typically, your expungement request must be filed at the original court that heard your criminal case. Bring any court papers you have with you to the appointment.
2. What Exactly Was the Offense?
Typically, expungement requirements differ according to the gravity of the violation.
Prepare to discuss your criminal background in depth during your session. Bring any police reports, court papers, or other paperwork with you to the appointment.
3. Have You Been Convicted?
If you were convicted of a felony, your expungement claim might be subject to extra restrictions.
For example, before you are eligible, you must normally fulfill the terms of your sentence (including probation and payment of penalties).
Bring any paperwork proving the successful completion of your sentence or payment of your penalties with you.
How Much Does It Cost to Get a Record Expunged in Virginia?
The cost of an expungement case might vary somewhat depending on local fees. The filing price is roughly $84 plus the cost of serving the petition in the state, for a total of $96.
A misdemeanor will cost you between $650 and $1,100 in lawyer’s fees. Some Virginia expungement lawyers charge “flat rates” for expungement, which might save you money by restricting how much the attorney can charge you for their time.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Expunge a Conviction in Virginia?
Many Virginia expungement attorneys have expertise clearing criminal records. Submit your case to LegalMatch to see whether you can clear your name.