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Virginia Juvenile Expungement Law: Clearing your delinquency record in the Commonwealth

Posted by attorney Lisa Manning

Virginia juvenile records are generally closed to public view, but may still be available to the court, law enforcement and, by court order, to other agencies/individuals. The only public access to juvenile records is certain information related to convictions for motor vehicle offenses and violent felonies. In all other cases, juvenile case proceedings are usually kept private and the related records placed under seal. Such records are confidential, but they are not necessarily expunged (destroyed). While some cases are automatically expunged after a certain period of time, others remain in the system and continue to be accessible by law enforcement or court order.

Whether a juvenile record is can be expunged depends on the type of criminal violation involved, the final disposition of each charge and the amount of time since the case was terminated. See Virginia Code §16.1 -306. Once a record has been destroyed, the defendant is treated legally as if the offense never occurred.

Records are automatically expunged on January 2nd of each year IF

1) The juvenile was NOT “found guilty" of a felony* AND

2) The juvenile has met the relevant waiting period requirement:

  • Five years have passed since the final case hearing AND the juvenile is over age 19; OR
  • For Motor Vehicle Violations reported to the DMV, the juvenile has reached age 29.

*delinquent act that would have been charged as a felony if committed by an adult

Any juvenile who qualifies for automatic expungement and does not want to wait the full time period can file early IF he/she is eligible for expungement under the adult standard of Va. Code §19.2-302. This Petition for Expungement must conform to the adult expungement standards, but should be filed in the relevant Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court.

Note: Virginia’s law regarding juvenile criminal records is quite technical. For example, the juvenile expungement statute, Va. Code §16.1-306, has undergone several revisions to its key language over the past 30+ years. The current version does not define “found guilty" as used to determine eligibility for automatic expungement in §16.1-306(A) – i.e. whether this means a literal conviction or, instead, encompasses other final dispositions, such as a finding of “facts sufficient." There is a lack of definitive caselaw on the subject. Former juvenile defendants should monitor the status of their records, and consult with a lawyer advocate on their behalf if a question of expungement arises.

Regardless of whether a juvenile’s record has been expunged, finding of guilt in a juvenile case is NOT legally intended to impose the civil and employment limitations as an adult conviction. Specifically, “A finding of guilty on a petition charging delinquency under the provisions of this law shall not operate to impose any civil disabilities ordinarily imposed by conviction for a crime, nor shall any such finding operate to disqualify the child for employment by any state or local governmental agency." (emphasis added) Va. Code §16.1-308.

Lisa Manning, Esq. RECORD ABSOLUTIONS 1629 K Street, N.W. Suite 300 Washington, DC 20006 (202) 905-2560 (202) 747-2880 fax LManning@RecordAbsolutions.com (mailto:LManning@RecordAbsolutions.com) www.RecordAbsolutions.com (http://www.recordabsolutions.com/) NOTE: This post provides general information on expungement. The information contained herein is not intended as legal advice, and you should therefore not act upon it before consulting with professional legal counsel. To obtain legal services from any law firm, including Record Absolutions, you must first establish an attorney-client relationship. This requires personal contact with us, and our determination that we are willing to take the engagement. Until all of these steps are complete, you have not hired an attorney and have not become a client of the firm. Thank you for your understanding.

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