Being charged with a criminal offense can have significant and long-lasting negative effects. Having a criminal record can make the process of applying for a job or school, or trying to get a security clearance significantly more difficult — which is why it’s important to know your legal options when it comes to expungement.

Can I expunge convictions from my record in Virginia?

Unfortunately in Virginia, you can’t expunge convictions. You can only expunge arrests, so the first thing to look at is whether or not the crime is a conviction. If you haven’t been convicted, you may be eligible to get the charge expunged from your record.

For example, let’s say you are charged with shoplifting but are found not guilty. If a prospective employer were to run a criminal background check on you, that shoplifting charge would still appear even though you were found not guilty. This is a situation where it would be largely beneficial to expunge the charge from your record.

How can I expunge charges from my record?

In order to expunge a charge, you need to file a petition in the Circuit Court and prove to the judge that having the charge appear on your record is a manifest injustice. By statute, if you have no other criminal record and the charge is a misdemeanor, the court should presume that there is an injustice and likely issue you the expungement.

Are there any exceptions to expunging charges?

Now, there are exceptions to the general rule that convictions cannot be expunged in Virginia. For example, let’s say you are stopped for shoplifting but based on a plea agreement you’re ultimately convicted of an unrelated crime, like disorderly conduct. You may be able to expunge the fact that the initial charge was for shoplifting. Getting that charge expunged could make a big impact since a prospective employer may be more concerned with a shoplifting charge compared to disorderly conduct.

When to contact an attorney

These situations are not cut and dry, and the avenues you can take to get your record expunged in Virginia are very limited compared to what’s available in other states. If you’re looking to clean up your record, it’s crucial to consult an experienced attorney, who knows the in’s and out’s of Virginia’s expungement laws.

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