While many jurisdictions have a system of automatic expungement of criminal records in certain situations, or systems that make it easy to obtain an expungement, Virginia treats expungements differently. Those seeking an expungement must file a petition in circuit court, and only a very few cases are actually eligible for an expungement.
For that reason, many applicants choose to consult a Virginia expungement lawyer who can advocate on their behalf and determine whether they qualify before they begin the process. An experienced defense attorney can help ensure all requirements are fulfilled so that the application has the greatest chance of achieving early success.
It is important for anyone seeking an expungement in Virginia to understand what the process involves and what a successful outcome will accomplish. Although the word “expunge” is generally defined to mean to erase or completely remove something, a legal expungement usually does not fulfill this linguistic definition.
An expungement in Virginia will hide arrest records from public view by sealing them off. But it does not truly erase records of criminal arrests. The records remain on file, visible to certain parties such as law enforcement officials when a court grants permission to view them.
There are certain requirements that must be met for someone charged with a crime to have that record expunged, and the requirements are strictly interpreted by the courts.
The most important aspect to keep in mind is that people are only eligible to obtain expungement for offenses which they were either were not convicted or, if they were convicted, they received an absolute pardon by virtue of the fact that they were wrongfully convicted.
Section 19.2-392.2 of the Virginia code sets forth the specific situations in which an individual is eligible to apply for expungement of police and court records:
While judges may feel sympathy for those in other situations who seek to have their records expunged, they generally do not have the ability to grant an expungement.
Individuals who meet the requirements for an expungement may file a petition in the circuit court. The petition should be filed in the same jurisdiction where the original charges were filed.
Although it is not necessary for applicants to make use of professional legal representation, many choose to work with an attorney because the court is not able to advise applicants regarding procedures and requirements.
In certain situations, expungement may be granted by the judge without substantial consideration, such as when the offense at issue is a misdemeanor and the applicant does not have additional charges on their record.
However, when the offense charged was a felony or when the applicant has other charges on record, it may be necessary for the applicant to prove that allowing the records to remain visible would be a “manifest injustice”.
If you would like to have police and court records expunged from your record but you are not sure if you qualify or how to begin the process, it is worthwhile to schedule a free consultation with a Virginia expungement lawyer to learn your best options.
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