Maybe you've heard the phrase “one wrong turn is all it takes.” Usually, that refers to the danger of a slippery slope in bad decisions: You make one bad choice, and others follow. Good criminal defense lawyers know that doesn't always happen. Good people can make bad decisions and set their lives on a different path after a mistake. Changes from 2021 to Virginia law support that idea.
If you have a low-grade felony or misdemeanor on your record, it is now possible for you to file a petition in Virginia requesting that the records associated with your charge or conviction be sealed. There are, of course, many details and complications associated with this process, so it is a good idea to retain the services of a lawyer to assist you. Kassabian & Kassabian, P.L.C., a criminal defense firm in Fairfax, VA, provides free consultations.
VIRGINIA EXPUNGEMENT BILL 2021
According to the law enacted last summer, certain lower-level convictions—such as misdemeanors and Class 5 and 6 felonies (the lowest levels of felonies)—and traffic infractions may potentially be sealed after 10 years have passed. Not all convictions are eligible to be sealed though. For example, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is not included among the convictions that can be sealed.
Likewise, certain misdemeanors are automatically sealed after 10 years. This includes some traffic related matters and underage alcohol purchase, among other charges. There are other cases in which records are automatically sealed, as well, including but not limited to cases of mistaken identity.
The law will not be implemented in its entirety until July of 2025, but certain provisions have already gone into effect. This new Virginia expungement law does not apply to every conviction, but if you are a first-time offender convicted of a lesser offense, you may be able to petition for expungement.
A hearing follows your petition for expungement being filed, provided that the Virginia Commonwealth's Attorney doesn't object to your petition. Reasons for objection could include having been convicted of a higher-grade felony (Class 3 or 4) within the last 20 years, as just one example.
During your hearing, you will have to convince the judge that your record should be expunged. That may be a difficult prospect, depending on the nature of the conviction and/or the offender's personal history. If you were convicted of marijuana possession, for example, you may need to demonstrate that you have since been rehabilitated.
CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WILL HELP
Getting your record expunged in Virginia isn't guaranteed, even if the record you want cleared was a first and only offense. The process involves filing a civil petition, providing the clerk's office with a filing fee, ensuring service of process is properly made on the Commonwealth, obtaining a fingerprint card from the correct agency, noticing the court of the hearing date and then having the actual expungement hearing before the court. Because of the complexity of the process, you should consider consulting and retaining the services of a good criminal defense lawyer who is experienced in the law of expungements.
If you are in a situation where you need building strategy for an expungement hearing, John Kassabian, criminal defense lawyer for Prince William and Fairfax Counties, can provide you with a free consultation. Go here to learn more about Kassabian & Kassabian.