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When can one seek an expungement in Virginia?

When a person in Virginia is arrested and charged with a crime, it is understandable that they do not want that record to haunt them in the future. Therefore, they may seek to have their record expunged. When a person's record is expunged, it means that the records of the person's arrest and the crimes the person was charged with generally cannot be obtained by the public, unless the person wishing to gain access to the record obtains permission from the court. This can be extremely useful when it comes to obtaining a job or housing, two situations in which having a criminal record could impose a severe hardship on a person's life. In what situations can a person seek an expungement of their record?

There are a number of situations that give a person in Virginia the right to seek to have their criminal record expunged. One is if the accused received an acquittal after pleading "not guilty." Another is if the charges against the accused were dropped. Another is if the prosecutors determine not to prosecute all of the charges against the accused ("nolle prosequi.") An expungement can also be sought if a different person committed the crime using the accused's name. Finally, an expungement can be sought if the accused was convicted but afterwards was granted an absolute pardon. This means that the commonwealth officially deems that the accused is innocent. Keep in mind that to pursue an expungement for any of the above reasons, a person must have maintained that he or she was innocent.

In order for a person's record to be expunged, they must file a petition with the court. The accused bears the burden of proving that not having his or her records expunged would result in a "manifest injustice." This is a high standard to meet, and any expungement granted must fall under one of the aforementioned categories.

So, while a person's ability to have their record expunged is limited, it is not impossible. However, due to the complexity of such filings and due to the fact that the information in this post cannot serve as legal advice, a person seeking an expungement may benefit from consulting with a legal professional, who can provide advice on how best to proceed.

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Sevila, Saunders, Huddleston & White
30 North King Street
Leesburg, VA 20176

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