Expungement in Virginia
We all love to follow a good court case. Sometimes, we even allow ourselves to get emotionally invested in the result. Did he or didn’t he? Will she be found innocent or guilty? No matter the outcome, we draw our own conclusions, convinced that we know best what the outcome should be.
Another type of legal story has risen to prominence in the last decade. It’s the story of someone once found guilty but is later proven innocent. In many cases, the increased use of DNA testing has released previously guilty convicts. In other cases, it is a look at the same evidence but without the prejudice, racism, or other form of societal blindness that once existed.
And then there’s the random cultural phenomenon that earns someone like Adnan Syed a second chance. Even though Adnan’s record has not been expunged, millions of people are following his case in the hopes that this is accomplished.
While some states will expunge criminal records for guilty parties, the Commonwealth of Virginia does not. The rest of this post will explain how Virginia defines expungement as well as what it is not.
What Expungement Is:
According to the Code of Virginia, a person can have their police and court records expunged after filing of the appropriate Petition. However, despite what you may have heard or read, expungement is only designed for innocent people. This means that it only applies if (a) you have been acquitted of a crime, or (b) a nolle prosequi has been taken or the charge is "otherwise dismissed".
What Expungement Is Not:
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, Governor McAuliffe has pushed hard for the restoration of rights for thousands of felons in the state. This restoration of rights, while controversial to some people, has given select felons the ability to vote, serve on jury duty, run for public office, and become a notary public once again.
Interestingly, the Commonwealth’s special web page for this restoration process appears on a Google search for expungement. This process, however, is not the same as expungement. These felons’ records are not being deleted; instead, they are being given back many of the rights that they lost when they became felons. To say it another way, they are still felons, but they have some of their rights returned to them.
Expungement is also not the same thing as a pardon. Since expungement is not for guilty people but instead deletes the arrest and court records for acquitted and other innocent parties, a pardon of a crime is something entirely different.
Many citizens want a spotless name. If they have been arrested but never found guilty of any crimes, they need the ability to have a clean slate. Expungement allows for that to occur. It makes sure that a person’s simple presence in court does not harm his or her name. Presumed innocence, when proven to be true, should not come with a stain if a person’s arrest/court records cannot be deleted. This is the benefit of expungement.
If you are in need of expungement, you need a lawyer with the ability and experience to accomplish this for you. This process is not a simple one. Pursuant to the Code, a Petition must be filed (along with a fee), service must be obtained on the Commonwealth's Attorney, and fingerprints must be obtained, just to name a few. Further, depending on the charge, a hearing in the Circuit Court may be required.
If this is your need, call or e-mail today for a free consultation!
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