What is an expungement and why should I get one?


If you’ve been charged with a crime and were acquitted, a nolle prosequi was taken, or the charge was otherwise dismissed, then you are eligible to have your charge expunged in Virginia.  Expungement refers to the process of sealing criminal arrest records from the petitioner’s criminal history.

The Process:

Your charge is not automatically expunged upon dismissal. To obtain an expungement, you must petition the court with a copy of the warrant, summons or indictment in the court where the case was disposed of, requesting an order of expungement be entered. The attorney for the Commonwealth may note an objection to the petition or answer within 21 days after service. You must also obtain your fingerprints and those are then submitted to the Central Criminal Records Exchange, with a copy of the petition. The Central Criminal Records Exchange then forwards a copy, under seal, to the court. Once the court receives the record, a hearing is conducted on the petition.

The court can enter an order of expungement without a hearing when the attorney for the Commonwealth files a notice that it does not object to the granting of an expungement, and, in felony cases, stipulates that continued existence and possible dissemination of information relating to the charge may cause circumstances constituting a manifest injustice to the petitioner.

The Standard:

To enter an order of expungement, the court must find that the continued existence and possible dissemination of information relating to the arrest may cause circumstances which constitute manifest injustice. If you have no prior criminal record and the arrest was for a misdemeanor or a civil offense, then you’re entitled, in the absence of good cause shown by the Commonwealth, to have the charge expunged.


Why should you have your charge expunged:

Getting your charge expunged is important as it keeps the record of your arrest out of public record. Choosing not to expunge your charge could impact job opportunities, educational opportunities, living arrangements, and security clearances.  If you have any interest in expunging a charge, you should speak with an attorney to discuss petitioning the court for expungement as soon as possible.

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