Criminal charges, even when you are not found guilty, can be damaging to one’s personal and professional life. This is where expungement comes in. Especially in the Northern Virginia area, where many individuals are professionals who will need to pass background check and obtain clearances, this is very important. This reality is addressed by the Virginia General Assembly:
The General Assembly finds that arrest records can be a hindrance to an innocent citizen’s ability to obtain employment, an education and to obtain credit. It further finds that the police and court records of those of its citizens who have been absolutely pardoned for crimes for which they have been unjustly convicted can also be a hindrance. This chapter is intended to protect such persons from the unwarranted damage which may occur as a result of being arrested and convicted.Va. Code § 19.2-392.1
This “Statement of Policy” specifically targets two classes of people who have been charged with crimes 1) “innocent citizens” and 2) those who have been “absolutely pardoned.” There are a great deal more of the first class.
An expungement is available when a case has reached a few specific conclusions: 1) A Nolle Prosequi (Nolle Prosse), which is a dismissal on motion of the Commonwealth, 2) An acquital (Not Guilty at trial), or 3) an Accord and Satisfaction (certain misdemeanor charges can be remedied outside the criminal system- particularly by reimbursing a victim).
These are the only circumstances in which an expungement will be granted (outside a pardon). All convictions in Virginia are permanent, and will not fall off of your ‘record’.
To obtain an expungement, the following is required (Va. Code § 19.2-392.2):
- The filing of a Petition in the Circuit Court where the charges were originally made. This Petition should include specific information required by statute regarding the individual, the charges, and the disposition.
- The individual seeking the expungement will need to get fingerprints done- typically at their local Sheriff’s or Police Office. This is then sent to a central database to check for criminal history (the fingerprint card is either returned or destroyed at the end of proceedings).
- ” After receiving the criminal history record information from the CCRE, the court shall conduct a hearing on the petition. If the court finds that the continued existence and possible dissemination of information relating to the arrest of the petitioner causes or may cause circumstances which constitute a manifest injustice to the petitioner, it shall enter an order requiring the expungement of the police and court records, including electronic records, relating to the charge. Otherwise, it shall deny the petition. “
What do I do if I want to expunge a charge?
It is important to make sure your expungement is handled correctly, as procedural issues can derail the process. Our attorneys, Farheena Siddiqui and Brian Szmak spend a good deal of time in the local courthouses and have filed numerous Petitions for Expungement. Contact our office today, and we can help get you the best chances of clearing your record.