Posts Tagged ‘expunge’

Can my criminal record be expunged?

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

I’ve had a couple of phone calls in the past few weeks from people who want to have their criminal records expunged.  One of these was for a petty larceny conviction which started as a dare to shoplift.  The person took the advice of her friends and pled guilty, got a small fine, and thought she was off the hook.

Fast forward 8  years, and this same person now wants to rent an apartment.  Surprise! The apartment manager did a criminal background check and found the petty larceny charge.

I had another call from someone who had a brush with the police over 40 years ago, when he was a teenager, and that charge is now keeping him from getting a gun permit.

And just last week I had an inquiry from someone who was found guilty of grand larceny about 12 years ago and she can’t get a job today because of her criminal record.

Bad credit stays on your credit report for 7 years.  Even a financial judgment or bankruptcy falls off eventually.  In Virginia, criminal convictions stay on your record forever!

But what about an expungement?  An expungement is a civil process by which a record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed, generally after the expiration of time.  Each state has its own process and time frame.  In Virginia the time frame for sealing or destroying record of a criminal conviction is NEVER.  That’s right.  In Virginia, if you are found guilty of a crime, or if you plead guilty to a crime, that criminal record will remain forever and cannot be expunged automatically.

Is there a process in Virginia to have a record expunged?  The answer to that is Yes.  If you have a criminal record you can petition the court to have the record expunged.  But the only way a criminal record can be expunged in Virginia is if the criminal arrest was not finalized by a guilty verdict in any form, or if the court finds that the dissemination of information relating to the arrest of the petitioner causes or may cause circumstances which constitute a manifest injustice to the petitioner.

And most of the time, the court does not find that a manifest injustice exists where there was sufficient evidence to find the person guilty in the first place.  Your definition of a manifest injustice is not usually the same definition that the court uses!

As an example, people often argue that they just can’t be found guilty of reckless driving because it will affect their security clearance.  At least one Commonwealth Attorney I talked with said that they should have thought of that before they were caught going so fast!  Very different viewpoints on whether this is a manifest injustice!

So, if you were arrested but never tried; or if you were arrested and tried but found not guilty, then the expungement process might help you get that arrest off of your records.

Otherwise, there is a very, very, slim chance that the record might be expunged.

The ‘take away’ from this?  Don’t do the crime in the first place, otherwise it may follow you forever.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.