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Virginia Expungement: A Detailed Guide

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Virginia Expungement: A Detailed Guide

Navigating the process of expunging a criminal record in Virginia can be complex. This guide provides clear, step-by-step information on how to pursue Virginia expungement, detailing eligibility, the process, associated costs, and upcoming changes in the law.

Who Can Apply for Virginia Expungement?

If you’re looking to clear a charge from your record in Virginia, it’s important to know if you qualify for     expungement. Here’s a straightforward breakdown of who can apply:

This graphic outlines the 5 main criteria that determine expungement eligibility in Virginia: Identity theft, dismissal, scquital, nolle prosequi, absolute pardon.

  • Acquittal: If you went to court and were found not guilty, you can apply for expungement. This means the court decided there wasn’t enough evidence to prove you committed the crime.
  • Dismissal: If your charges were dropped, you might be eligible. Charges can be dismissed for various reasons, such as not enough evidence, issues with how evidence was collected, or the prosecutor deciding not to proceed with the case.
  • Nolle Prosequi: This is a special dismissal where the prosecutor chooses not to pursue the case further. It’s an official way of saying the charges against you won’t be pursued.
  • Identity Theft: If you were charged with a crime because someone else used your identity, you can apply for expungement. You will need to show proof that the crime was committed by someone else using your identity.
  • Absolute Pardon: If the Governor has granted you a pardon, you can seek expungement. A pardon is an official forgiveness of the crime, which can make you eligible for expungement.

Steps to Apply for Expungement in Virginia

Getting your record cleared involves a few detailed steps:

This infographic gives a summary of the three main steps involved in applying for expungement in Virginia: (1) filing and petition, (2)  service of the petition, and (3) a court hearing.

1. Filing the Petition

  • Prepare Your Petition: File a “Petition for Expungement” at the Circuit Court where the charge was originally filed. Include your full name, date of birth, the charge to be expunged, and the outcome of the case.

2. Serving the Petition

  • Notify the Commonwealth’s Attorney: You must give a copy of your petition to the Commonwealth’s Attorney. This is a required step to inform the prosecution of your intent to seek expungement.

3. Court Hearing

  • Attend a Hearing (If Needed): If the Commonwealth’s Attorney opposes your petition, you’ll need to go to a court hearing. At the hearing, argue that the criminal record is causing or could cause significant injustice to you. 

Additional Considerations

Chart displaying the additional considerations to have when pursuing an expungement in Virginia. These are: types of eligibility, waiting periods, and process details.

  • Waiting Periods: There are no specific waiting periods mentioned for expungement after acquittal or dismissal in Virginia. However, for those seeking expungement under the new laws taking effect in 2025, certain waiting periods apply, such as seven years for some misdemeanors.
  • Types of Eligibility: Beyond the basic criteria, there are nuances to eligibility, such as the type of dismissal and the nature of the pardon.
  • Process Details: The process includes obtaining a certified copy of the charge, filing a petition with the required information, serving the petition, and potentially attending a court hearing.

Breaking Down the Costs of Virginia Expungement

When you’re looking to expunge a record in Virginia, it’s important to budget for all the associated costs. Here’s a detailed look at what you can expect to pay:

Infographic on the cost of expungement in Virginia shown in a 3 section pyramid. The three sections include: court and administrative fees, fingerprinting costs, and court and administrative fees.

Court and Administrative Fees

  • Filing Fee: The standard cost to file your expungement petition is $86. This fee is mandatory and covers the administrative costs of processing your petition.
  • Service Fee: Expect to pay an additional $12 for the sheriff to serve the petition to the Commonwealth’s Attorney. This is a processing fee for the legal notification required in the expungement process.
  • Certified Copies: You may need to pay around $2 for each certified copy of the charge you’re seeking to expunge. These documents are necessary to attach to your petition.

Fingerprinting Costs

  • Fingerprint Card: A crucial part of the expungement process is obtaining a fingerprint card, which typically costs about $10. This card is used to verify your identity and ensure accurate processing of your expungement.

Legal Representation Fees

  • Attorney Fees: Hiring an attorney is not mandatory but is highly recommended due to the legal complexities of expungement. Attorney fees can vary greatly:Some attorneys charge hourly rates, starting as low as $150 per hour, and the entire process can take between 4 to 20 hours

Timeframe for the Expungement Process

The time it takes to expunge a record in Virginia isn’t set in stone and can vary based on several factors:

  • Typical Duration: On average, the expungement process can take anywhere from several months to over a year. This timeframe can be affected by the court’s schedule, the complexity of your case, and whether the Commonwealth’s Attorney contests the expungement.

Infographic on the time frame for the expungement process in Virginia that details it can take up to over a year based on court schedules, case complexity, opposition from the state.

Upcoming Changes in 2025

Looking ahead, Virginia’s expungement laws are set to become more inclusive:

Infographic about upcoming changes in Virginia's expungement laws that describes the automatic sealing of records and expanded eligibility for expungement.

Automatic Sealing of Records

  • Misdemeanor Convictions: Starting in 2025, certain misdemeanor convictions will be automatically sealed seven years after the conviction date, as long as no other crimes have been committed during that time.

Expanded Eligibility for Expungement

  • Broader Criteria: The new laws will allow more individuals to seek expungement, including some who have misdemeanor convictions, under specific conditions.

Conclusion

Understanding the costs and time involved in the Virginia expungement process is crucial for anyone looking to clear their criminal record. While the process can be costly and time-consuming, the benefits of a clean record are invaluable. Keep an eye on the upcoming changes in 2025, which may make expungement more accessible. If you’re unsure about any part of the process, consider consulting with an experienced attorney to guide you through the steps.

The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice and is provided as is without any guarantee of accuracy. If you need a professional legal opinion, click here to send in your legal request.

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