Written by attorney Lisa Manning

Virginia Expungement Law: Clearing your criminal record in the Commonwealth

Expungement is the legal process of deleting, sealing or redacting records related to a criminal charge. Expungement law varies by state and is virtually nonexistent for federal crimes.

In Virginia, the final disposition of a criminal charge determines whether the court can order expungement of the related records. When a judge issues an Order of Expungement, the Court, law enforcement and other relevant agencies must remove all records of the criminal case from public access.

Virginia law states that a charge can be expunged only where the final disposition is an acquittal, nolle prossequi, accord & satisfaction, “otherwise dismissed," or in cases of actual innocence (e.g. wrong person arrested, Absolute Pardon). See Virginia Code § 19.2-392.2. In certain cases, a deferred disposition that is later dismissed can qualify for expungement, but not where there has been a finding of "facts sufficient" for guilt (e.g. a First Offender sentence). The Court also considers the criminal history of the petitioner (former defendant requesting the expungement). In eligible misdemeanor cases where the petitioner has no prior criminal record, he/she is entitled to expungement unless the Commonwealth can show otherwise. In other cases, the Court will order expungement if it determines that the continued e xistence of public criminal records will cause “manifest injustice" to the petitioner.

You can check the final disposition and current status of a record online through the links below:

General District Court

Circuit Court

If your case appears eligible, you can then prepare to file a Petition for Expungement of Records. Many petitioners choose to hire a lawyer to handle the Petition process, but you are also allowed to file pro se (representing yourself). You will need to write a Petition and submit it, along with the relevant fees, to the Circuit Court Civil Division Clerk of the jurisdiction in which you were charged. You must then deliver a stamped-as-filed copy of the Petition to the local Sheriff’s Office and have a set of your fingerprints taken. The Commonwealth has 21 days after the filing date to respond to an Expungement Petition. After that time, you must schedule a hearing before the Circuit Court for a judge to rule on your Petition. If you are successful in obtaining an Expungement Order, be sure that you or your lawyer follows up with all agencies involved in your case -- Circuit Court, District Court, Commonwealth Attorney, arresting law enforcement, detention facility and the FBI -- to ensure their compliance.

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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