What You Need to Know About Criminal Record Expungements in Virginia
In Virginia, a conviction for a misdemeanor or felony criminal offense results in a record for life. However, under certain circumstances, these records can be sealed. Here is what you need to know about criminal record expungements in Virginia.
What is an expungement?An expungement is an action used to delete all police and court records, including electronic records, for a specific criminal case. While an expungement removes these records from public access, they are not actually destroyed and can be accessed by court order.
What circumstances qualify for an expungement?An expungement can only be obtained if you are found not guilty by the court (acquittal or dismissal); the charges are withdrawn (nolle prosequi) by the Court on a motion by the Commonwealth; an individual's name is used in error; or an individual obtained an absolute pardon from a Virginia Governor.
What circumstances do not qualify for an expungement?Where facts are found sufficient for a finding of guilt and the charge is ultimately dismissed, there is no conviction record, but there will be a record of being charged and that the charge was dismissed. This type of outcome is common for a first-time marijuana, domestic assault, under-aged possession of alcohol, or a trespass charge (s. 19.2-151). However, if any of these charges are amended by the Commonwealth to that of a non-related charge, and the defendant is found guilty of that non-related charge, the original charge would be eligible for an expungement.
What does facts are found sufficient for a finding of guilt mean?Facts are found sufficient for a finding of guilt means that the judge believes there is enough evidence to convict the defendant, but is giving them a chance to avoid a conviction.
Are expungements automatically done after the case is finished?Even if a charge qualifies for an expungement, it is not an automatic process. Before a court will approve a request for an expungement, it is necessary to demonstrate that the record will cause you economic harm. For example, demonstrating that public access to revealing this charge could result in a loss of employment through a background check.
What is a pardon?There are three types of pardons that can be issued by a Virginia Governor: 1. A Simple Pardon can be given to those seeking to advance in employment, and education. To qualify for this type of pardon, you must demonstrate good citizenship and provide letters of recommendation from the officials involved in the case and from the Virginia Parole Board. This type of pardon does not expunge a criminal record. 2. In extraordinary circumstances, a Conditional Pardon can be given to those currently incarcerated and seeking early release. Violating any of the conditions outlined in the pardon could result in returning to prison. This type of pardon does not expunge a criminal record. 3. In even more extraordinary circumstances, an Absolute Pardon can be given to those who are innocent and unjustly convicted. This type of pardon makes you eligible to petition the court to have the conviction expunged.
What is a Restoration of Rights?When you are convicted of a felony in Virginia, you lose your right to vote, possess a firearm, run for and hold public office, serve on juries and serve as a notary public. Those who have been convicted of a violent crime, a crime against a minor, or an election law offense must submit an application to request their rights be restored.
What are the Criteria for Restoration of Rights for Non-Violent Offenders?If you have been convicted of a non-violent felony in a Virginia court or a U.S. District Court, you are eligible to request a restoration of your rights if you have: completed serving the prison sentence and released from probation or parole; paid all court costs, fines to the Commonwealth and restitution to the victims, if required; satisfied all court-ordered conditions and no pending felony charges.
What are the Criteria for Restoration of Rights for Violent Offenders?If you have been convicted of a violent or more serious felony in a Virginia court or a U.S. District Court, you are eligible to request a restoration of your rights if you have: completed serving the prison sentence and released from probation or parole for a minimum of three years; no felony convictions in the three years immediately preceding the application; no pending criminal charges in the three years immediately preceding the application; paid all court costs, fines to the Commonwealth and the victims, if required; and satisfied all court-ordered conditions.
Additional resources provided by the author
- Information on the expungement of police and court records
- Information on simple pardons
- Information on conditional pardons
- Information on absolute pardons
- Information on the satisfaction and discharge of assault and similar charges
- Information on the restoration of rights
- Information on the paperwork necessary for the automatic restoration of rights for non-violent offenders
- Information on crimes that require a waiting period and Application for Restoration of Rights
- Information on the application for restoration of rights for more serious offenses