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3-5 times a week, my office consults individuals for expungements. With over 250 a year consultations, we only end up handling probably 10-15 cases a year.
Is it because we are so expensive that clients seek more affordable lawyers? Or is it because we simply are rude to the clients and they are turned off by our bad personalities? Fortunately, I can attest that neither of these are the culprits as to why clients do not employ us.
The main reason is because expungements in Virginia are extremely difficult to obtain.
First, lets look at what an expungement is and what it accomplishes. When a court expunges a criminal incident, it is ordering all police files, court records, arrest records and any data compiled by the state to be erased and destroyed. So if you are charged with assault and battery, and the court orders that case expunged, then there would not be a shred of evidence in any government file that would show you were charged, tried or bonded for such an offense. Further, when you obtain an expungement, you do not have to disclose any involvement with the charged crime on any state government application for employment or for assistance. This is truly a major legal benefit to someone’s criminal and arrest record to have all data pertaining to the charge erased.
The problem lies in what can be expunged. In Virginia, only charges that you were found not-guilty, dismissed or nolle prossed are eligible for expungement. You are not eligible for expungement for any convictions. Nor are you eligible for expungement for any first-offender dismissals (such as first offender marijuana or domestic assault). Second, you are not entitled to have a felony expunged that was reduced to a misdemeanor. So if you were charged with grand larceny (felony) and it was reduced to petite larceny (misdemeanor), you are not entitled to expunge the felony portion of the case. Finally, you must show for misdemeanors that the continued dissemination of the arrest information will cause a manifest unjustice to the petitioner. Essentially this means that you must show that if you were charged with shoplifting and were found not-guilty, that having the arrest information on your record would somehow prejudice you in your life. Sometimes this is an extremely high hurdle. Especially, if you already have a criminal record. For instance, if you beat a shoplifting charge, but already had a petite larceny conviction on your record from 8 years ago, it would be a high hurdle to ask a court to remove the not-guilty shoplifting charge unless you could show that it somehow prejudiced you from gaining employment, a security clearance or other types of life benefits. As for convictions, the only way to have a conviction expunged in Virginia is to obtain a absolute pardon from the governor. All I can say to that, is good luck. Statistically, obtaining an absolute pardon from the governor is virtually impossible.
Essentially, the summary of this article is that it is very hard to get an expungement in Virginia. Being improperly charged with a crime is a terrible thing. Virginia does not make it terribly easy to get your good name back when it happens. However, if you have been found not-guilty, dismissed or nolle-prossed of a criminal charge, feel free to contact our office to see if we can get the case details expunged. If you have been found guilty f a crime, don’t even bother. There is nothing I can do for you. Unless of course you get that pardon…