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A New Beginning: Navigating Expungement of Criminal Records in Virginia

Understanding Expungement of Criminal Records in Virginia

Having a criminal record can create significant barriers for individuals, hindering their ability to find employment, pursue education, and obtain credit. Fortunately, the Commonwealth of Virginia recognizes the importance of providing a second chance to those who have been unfairly burdened by arrest and conviction records. This is why Virginia has provisions for expungement, a legal process that allows certain individuals to have their criminal records sealed or removed from public view. In this blog post, we'll explore the law surrounding expungement of criminal records in Virginia and provide a better understanding of the process.

The Purpose of Expungement

The General Assembly of Virginia acknowledges that arrest records can unfairly impact innocent individuals, making it difficult for them to move forward with their lives. It recognizes that even those who have been absolutely pardoned or have demonstrated rehabilitation may continue to face obstacles due to their police and court records. The policy behind the expungement laws is to protect such individuals from unwarranted harm caused by their arrest and conviction records.

Eligibility for Expungement

Not everyone with a criminal record is eligible for expungement in Virginia. The law specifies certain circumstances under which individuals may seek to have their records expunged. These circumstances include:

  1. Acquittal or Dismissal: If a person is charged with a crime or a civil offense and is subsequently acquitted, or the charges are dismissed (including dismissal by accord and satisfaction), they may file a petition for expungement.
  2. Identity Theft: If someone's name or identification has been used without their consent or authorization by another person who has been charged or arrested, the victim of identity theft may file a petition for relief and expungement.
  3. Absolute Pardon or Writ Vacating Conviction: Individuals who have received an absolute pardon for a crime they did not commit or have had a conviction vacated through a writ may also be eligible for expungement.

Filing the Petition

To begin the expungement process, the individual seeking expungement must file a petition in the circuit court of the county or city where the case was disposed of. The petition must contain relevant information, including the date of arrest, name of the arresting agency, the specific criminal charge or civil offense to be expunged, date of final disposition, petitioner's date of birth, and full name used at the time of arrest. Additionally, a copy of the petition must be served on the attorney for the Commonwealth, who has the option to file an objection or answer to the petition.

The Expungement Hearing

Upon receiving the petition, the court will conduct a hearing to determine if the continued existence and dissemination of information relating to the arrest may cause manifest injustice to the petitioner. If the court finds that expungement is appropriate, it will order the expungement of police and court records related to the charge. However, if the petitioner has no prior criminal record and the arrest was for a misdemeanor violation or civil offense, expungement is generally granted, unless the Commonwealth can show good cause to the contrary.

Expungement Process and Records

Upon entry of an order of expungement, the clerk of the court will forward a copy of the order to the Department of State Police, which will oversee the appropriate expungement or removal of the records. Expunged records are sealed and may only be disclosed in special circumstances.

Protections Against Discrimination

Virginia law also prohibits employers, educational institutions, and state and local government agencies from requiring applicants to disclose information concerning any arrest or criminal charge that has been expunged. Such information need not be disclosed, and an applicant may not be denied employment, admission, or services solely based on their refusal to disclose expunged records.

A Fresh Start

Expungement offers a fresh start to individuals burdened by past arrests and criminal charges. If you believe you meet the eligibility criteria for expungement in Virginia, it's essential to consult an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process. An attorney will help you prepare and file the necessary documents, represent you in court, and increase your chances of a successful expungement. Take this opportunity to protect your future and move forward with confidence.

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