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Expungements in Virginia

Bryan J. Jones, LLC Nov. 3, 2022

Virginia law allows you to seek expungement of your criminal records if you do not want them to appear on a background check for school, work, or other essential services.  

Removing these records from public view may improve your likelihood of being accepted into a school of your choice, receiving a security clearance to get work, or renting that dream house you have always wanted. 

In simple terms, expungement is the process an individual who was arrested and charged with a criminal offense is acquitted and can request the court to seal the police and court records from public view. When granted, the records are not destroyed but can only be viewed by law enforcement officers and the courts.  

Does your situation qualify for expungement? How do you prove your case, and how do you obtain the expungement? Today, we will answer these questions to help you make an informed decision.  

Who Can Receive an Expungement? 

The primary requirement to begin seeking expungement is that you did not receive a guilty verdict in a particular case. Other ways you may qualify for expungement are:  

  • You received a not guilty verdict of a criminal charge 

  • A case brought against you was dismissed 

  • The Commonwealth’s Attorney chose not to pursue a case against you 

  • A victim that filed a case against you writes to the court and requests for dismissal after receiving satisfaction for the injury 

  • Someone stole your identity, and you are innocent of the charges  

  • The Governor of Virginia gives you an absolute pardon  

If your criminal records qualify for expungement, you may need legal counsel to help you win your case. In some situations, a court may deny your request if you had been convicted in a previous case. An example is this case where the trial court rejected the request, but the Court of Appeal reversed the order and granted the expungement.  

What You Must Show to Receive an Expungement

Receiving an expungement may be relatively easy if you do not have a prior conviction or felony charges. If you do, you have the extra burden to show or manifest injustice if the court does not seal your criminal records.  

During the court proceeding, you must prove that keeping the records in public view affects your chances of getting a line of credit, renting a house, finding a job, or being admitted to a school. The court will decide based on how the commonwealth lawyer argues the case, your testimony, and Virginia laws.  

How to Obtain an Expungement

After you confirm that you qualify for expungement, you must file a petition where the charges were made. Include the warrant or indictment to be expunged, or write a letter stating the reasons for its unavailability. Afterward, file a copy to the commonwealth attorney of your city or county.  

Next, submit your fingerprints at the police station and a copy of the petition. A hearing date will be set, and you or your lawyer must prove to the court why you deserve the expungement. After the judge grants the request, they will order your records to be expunged from the police and court records.