Expunging a Criminal Offense in Virginia
When individuals have old arrests on their records, it can affect every aspect of their lives. It can be especially hard to get a good job or promotion if the offense had anything to do with theft or fraud. It can make potential landlords and employers wary if it was related to assault. Expungement offers people the opportunity to seal records of a crime that did not lead to a conviction, taking the records out of public view and making it easier to move forward in life. However, expungement is only available in certain circumstances. It is not intended for individuals found guilty of misdemeanor or felony crimes. Anyone who wants to learn more should contact a Leesburg attorney for help.
Eligibility for Expungement
People may be eligible for expungement if they were:
- Arrested for a crime and not charged, or charged but the prosecutor dropped the charges, also known as nolle prosequi.
- Found innocent of the charges.
- Arrested in relation to contempt of court in civil case but not found guilty of the charge.
- Charged with a misdemeanor crime for which there was a civil remedy and the issue was satisfactorily resolved without a conviction.
- Convicted of a crime then later granted an absolute pardon.
- The victim of identity theft and someone else was arrested their name.
It is important to note there are instances in which people are absolutely not eligible for expungement. Individuals who plead guilty or nolo contendere or who were found guilty of a criminal charge cannot have their records sealed. This includes plea bargains, since these typically require a person to plead guilty for a reduced sentence. Expungement is not intended to hide criminal records that include misdemeanor and felony convictions.
Seeking an Expungement
Adult criminal records are never automatically expunged. An individual must petition the court to seal their records of an arrest or charge that did not lead to a conviction. This process often goes smoother if an individual works with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
Once the petition for expungement is filed, the individual must serve the district attorney’s office of that same jurisdiction with a copy of the request. This gives the municipality to appear in court at the expungement hearing and object, if prosecutors feel it is necessary. They are likely to object if there is evidence that you were guilty of the crime and not actually found to be innocent. Once the judge has reviewed your petition and any objections, he or she will determine if you meet the requirements for an expungement.
What if I am Not Sure I am Eligible?
Determining eligibility can be tricky, particularly if your charges were dismissed or you were acquitted. While a dismissal or acquittal may seem as if they are straightforward eligibility for expungement, prosecutors always have the opportunity to object and offer a different point of view to the judge who then has to decide. If you are unsure whether you are eligible or whether a judge would grant an expungement, you should work with a Leesburg criminal defense lawyer at Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC as soon as possible.