Criminal charges in Virginia carry a wide variety of possible penalties. People may have to pay steep fines, spend months in state custody or endure supervised release via probation. While all of those consequences may be over within a few months of your criminal trial, there are other, lasting consequences that could affect you for years to come.
The criminal record that follows a conviction will affect your life in multiple ways. You may have trouble finding a rental house or getting a job because criminal background checks are so common. A criminal record can even affect where you can go to college and what financial aid you can receive.
Removing the record of your conviction requires an expungement through the Virginia criminal courts. Who qualifies for an expungement?
Virginia recently expanded its expungement rules
Virginia law does allow those charged with criminal offenses to remove certain public records about their arrest or charges. Historically, Virginia expungements have only been available to those found not guilty in court or those whose charges were eventually dismissed or pardoned.
However, recent changes to the expungement process make it more accessible to people in Virginia who plead guilty or got convicted in court. Those with misdemeanor or low-grade felony convictions on their record are now also potentially eligible to remove those blemishes from the public record.
People convicted of Class 5 or Class 6 felonies may qualify, but higher felony charges will not. Those who want to seal a conviction must never have had a Class 1 or Class 2 felony conviction and must have avoided Class 3 and Class 4 felony charges for at least the last 20 years. They also can not have had any felony charges at all in the last 10 years. The state also limits people to two expungements in their lifetime.
An expungement now can lead to improved future opportunity
Many people who make a criminal mistake learn from their brush with law enforcement and don’t repeat the same mistakes. If you received an absolute pardon, had your charges dismissed or have avoided repeat offenses after your conviction, you may be in a position to seek an expungement under Virginia law.
Knowing your rights as someone dealing with the Virginia criminal justice system can help you move on with your life after a previous mistake.