CAN I GET MY CRIMINAL RECORD EXPUNGED IN VIRGINIA?
The Commonwealth of Virginia has very strict laws regarding the expungement of criminal records. In Virginia, convictions are FOREVER. Virginia's expungement law offers relief only for those charged but never convicted.
Expungements Are Controlled by Statute
An expungement is a statutory remedy. This means that there is a specific Virginia Code Section that controls when an expungement may be granted and what exactly you have to do to obtain one. Virginia Code Section 19.2-392.2.
Statutory laws are written by the Virginia legislature and are mandatory, meaning Virginia judges may interpret how these laws are applied but must follow the law as it is laid out in the code section. Meaning, even if they want to grant it, if you aren't eligible according to the statute, they can't.
This is important to understand because the unfortunate truth in Virginia is that VERY few people are eligible to have a charge expunged from their record. Virginia requires a claim of “actual innocence,” meaning not only must your charge have been dismissed, it must have been dismissed in the correct way.
Who is Eligible for an Expungement in Virginia?
If you went to trial and pled not guilty, and were found not guilty, then your charge can be expunged. If your charge was dismissed before trial, you can have that charge expunged. In both of these situations you have an actual claim of innocence.
Dismissal Through A First Offender Program
However, if your charge was dismissed through a first offender program, the two most common being for domestic assault and battery and first offender for possession of marijuana or other drug, then your charge can NOT be expunged.
To enter into a first offender program in Virginia, you must make a legal stipulation that the prosecution's evidence would have been sufficient to convict you if it had been presented to the court. In short, you have no actual claim of innocence and so are not entitled to receive an expungement under Virginia law.
This is something that is often not explained to defendant's before they enter into these programs despite the fact that it can have lasting consequences on their lives and careers.
If I Wait 10 Years Can I Have My Virginia Conviction Expunged?
Unlike many other states, Virginia has no set number of years to wait that will make you eligible for an expungement. If you are convicted of a criminal offense in Virginia then that charge will stay on your record forever.
Timing is Everything
It is important to speak with an attorney about your options for expungement BEFORE entering into any sort of plea or agreement on a criminal charge.
However, depending on the level of court and the current status of your case you may have some options that could make your case eligible for expungement, but it is important to act quickly because such options are very time sensitive.
Speak to a Virginia Expungement Lawyer Today
If you have questions about whether you or a loved one are eligible for an expungement speak an experienced Virginia expungement attorney as soon as possible. Call today to speak with an attorney or schedule a free consultation.