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Commonly asked questions about expungement in Virginia

Any interaction with Virginia law enforcement can be unsettling. You may wonder what may crop up later and cause collateral consequences, especially if you have heard about the potential for lost employment, difficulty finding housing and other issues related to trouble with the law.

Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to successfully file a petition to have the record expunged

What is expungement?

Although the definition differs from state to state, in Virginia, this action seals your court and police records from the public. While employers, landlords and others would still be able to run a background check, they would not see your arrest and criminal charges. However, the records are still there, and the court sometimes allows authorities such as law enforcement to view the records if they are pertinent, such as in the event that you face new criminal charges.

When is an expungement possible?

Although the court will not expunge a conviction unless you later receive an absolute pardon from the governor, there are a number of other situations when you may petition for an expungement, including:

  • You plead "not guilty," and then a judge or jury acquits you.
  • A judge charges you with contempt of court but then finds you not guilty.
  • You face a criminal charge, but the Commonwealth Attorney's office chooses not to prosecute you for it.
  • The charge or conviction stems from someone else using your identity.

If the charge you face is a misdemeanor and the injured person could sue you in civil court, such as with assault and battery, the court may dismiss your case if the plaintiff provides a written statement that you have provided satisfaction for the injury. The case dismissal constitutes a valid reason for an expungement.

Will the judge grant the expungement?

Eligibility does not guarantee expungement. In fact, the outcome is largely dependent on the commonwealth attorney and the judge. If you have a simple misdemeanor charge or a mistaken identity conviction, the judge is likely to consider the petition favorably. The commonwealth attorney could cause you problems if he or she presents a good reason that the judge should not grant the expungement, though.

If you have multiple charges, or if the charge is a felony, you may still be eligible for an expungement. You will have to prove that leaving the charges on your record would constitute "manifest injustice," which is obvious unfairness.

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9300 Grant Avenue, Suite 200
Manassas, VA 20110

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