"Expunging" criminal charges in Virginia means sealing records of a charge that did not result in a conviction, so the public can’t see them. When a court in Virginia issues an expungement, all physical records of your arrest and subsequent court proceedings become inaccessible except through a request approved by the court. However, not all charges are eligible for expungement. If you’ve been accused of a crime, it’s important to understand how an expungement can benefit you and your family, when a person is eligible to petition for an expungement, how to secure one, and how an attorney can help.
Criminal Charges Affect Everyday Life
Being granted an expungement can benefit you and your family because criminal charges often come with a social stigma. It’s important to get those charges expunged, so they don’t negatively influence key areas of your life, including:
- Work. A prospective employer is likely to consider only candidates without a criminal record. Likewise, it may be difficult or impossible for you to be employed for certain types of jobs, including positions that involve working with children or with sensitive data and information.
- Friendships. Someone accused of a serious crime may find that his friends are less inclined to associate with him.
- Family. A criminal accusation could affect your divorce or child custody rights.
- Transportation. Being charged with a serious crime can affect a person’s ability to lease, borrow, or even operate a vehicle.
Not All Charges Are Able to Be Expunged
Expungement is limited in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Typically, you cannot expunge an entire criminal record—only individual criminal charges. In addition, a Virginia court may only expunge certain charges under the following circumstances:
- The prosecutor decided to drop the charges.
- The court dismissed the charge.
- A judge or jury found you not guilty of the crime.
- You were a victim of identity theft.
- The injured party in a related civil suit felt the issue was resolved, and the case was dismissed.
It’s important to note that criminal charges cannot be expunged if the offender pled guilty or was convicted.
What to Expect When Petitioning for Expungement
Knowing the process for expungement can help you better prepare to handle it. Here is a brief look at the process of petitioning for expungement:
- Filing the petition paperwork. A criminal defense attorney can help you properly draft documents, pay the appropriate fees in full, and file with the appropriate court.
- Obtaining new sets of fingerprints. You may need to get these from a Virginia law enforcement agency to confirm your identity.
- Waiting. You may wait up to 12 weeks to hear back about a decision from the court about your petition.
When your expungement is issued, all physical records of your arrest will be destroyed. You can move forward in your life, secure in the knowledge that information about your arrest will not be revealed to the public.
Contact Our Criminal Defense Attorneys for Help with Your Expungement Today
A criminal record is more than just an embarrassment. It can interfere with getting a job and may harm your relationships. If you have a serious criminal charge on your record, it’s important to consult with an attorney about your options. At Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi, we provide results-driven representation for people seeking expungement. For a reasonable flat fee, we can prepare all necessary papers and present them to the court for approval. Start a live, online chat to discuss your situation with our team.