Having a criminal charge that was otherwise dismissed appear on your criminal record can have adverse consequences to your reputation, obtaining employment, maintaining employment, security clearance, immigration consequences, ability to obtain credit, certain licensures, and more. Even if you were not convicted of the charge, having the arrest on your record can negatively impact your future.
Under certain circumstances, individuals may petition the court to have their criminal record, public court records, police reports and electronic records expunged. Since crimes are treated seriously by Virginia courts, having arrest and court records expunged is a procedural process that should be drafted and filed properly the first time so that re-filing fees and wasted time are avoided. With the right attorney, you can make a strong case for expungement of police and court records. Kassabian & Kassabian, P.L.C., has worked with various clients on their expungement petitions.
What Does Expungement Mean?
Understanding what expungement means is crucial to deciding if this is the right option for you. When a charge is properly expunged, the court and police record regarding the charge are erased from public view. The means your employer, landlord, bank, the military or other entity who may be conducting a background check, should not be able to view or obtain records that you were charged with a criminal offense. When your criminal record is expunged, the criminal charge is removed from your record by the Virginia State Police Department. Having no visible record will ensure you have a better chance of obtaining employment, obtaining a security clearance, housing, and more.
Who is Eligible for Expungement?
Virginia courts do not make it easy under all circumstances to qualify for an expungement. Virginia Code Section 19.2-392.2 outlines the circumstances in which you may be able to have your criminal record expunged:
- You are acquitted
- The prosecutor takes a nolle prosequi (“unable to pursue”) and cannot prosecute you, or the case is otherwise dismissed
- You are a victim of identity theft and the criminal used your identity to commit the crime
- You are convicted for a crime you did not commit
- You are convicted of a crime but later receive a full pardon
It is rare that people who were convicted of a criminal offense receive an expungement; that usually only comes after receiving a full pardon. If you were not convicted of a criminal charge and fit one of the above qualifications, you may be eligible for expungement.
The Expungement Process
To apply for an expungement, you must first file a petition in the circuit court. The petition must contain certain identifying and other relevant information regarding the charge. The petition must include any necessary and certified documents for each respective charge or disposition. Filing a petition with the circuit court comes with a filing fee. You will then need to serve a copy of the petition on the Attorney for the Commonwealth of the city or county in which the petition is filed, in addition to providing a copy of the petition to the local law enforcement agency who will complete a set of the petitioner's fingerprints. Next, the local law enforcement agency will submit the petitioner's fingerprint card to the Central Criminal Records Exchange (CCRE) with a copy of the petition for expungement. The CCRE will then provide under seal to the circuit court a copy of the petitioner's criminal history. Next, you will need to docket a hearing date with the circuit court to have your petition heard. Navigating this expungement process can appear somewhat complicated. Choosing a skilled attorney to handle the expungement of your court and criminal record can help in making this process smooth and the outcome successful.