Criminal records are the gift that keeps on giving. In Virginia, when you are charged with a crime, even a misdemeanor, the information about that charge is entered into the Virginia Criminal Information Network (VCIN, pronounced “Vee-sin”, and maintained by the Virginia State Police) and the National Crime Information Center (NCIC, maintained by the FBI) network. The records from those two agencies are usually what police, lawyers and employers mean when they talk about a “criminal record”. Even if you are found not guilty, the record of the charge remains in the database, and can impact your ability to get a job. It never goes away, unless …
Expungement is the process by which information about an arrest or charge can be removed from your record. Expungement is only available for those charges where the person was ultimately NOT convicted. Expungement is not available for charges which were taken under advisement and then dismissed pursuant to a first-offender statute, (usually where the Court continues the case and orders an evaluation and treatment, community service, probation, or the like, and then dismisses if you comply). If you were found not guilty, or the charge was “nolle prossed”, dismissed (including by accord and satisfaction), or otherwise disposed of than by conviction of first-offender statute, you may be able to wipe the slate clean again.
Va. Code §19.2-392.2 states in part “if the petitioner has no prior criminal record and the arrest was for a misdemeanor violation, the petitioner shall be entitled, in the absence of good cause shown to the contrary by the Commonwealth, to expungement of the police and court records relating to the charge, and the court shall enter an order of expungement.” That means if your only charge was a misdemeanor, and you were not convicted (except first offender statute cases), expungement is almost always available.
Felony expungements require a bit more, but they can be done, too, in many cases. “If the court finds that the continued existence and possible dissemination of information relating to the arrest of the petitioner causes or may cause circumstances which constitute a manifest injustice to the petitioner, it shall enter an order requiring the expungement of the police and court records, including electronic records, relating to the charge.” §19.2-392.2. Different courts view the “manifest injustice” standard differently. Different prosecutor’s offices take different positions on whether or not to oppose expungements, generally.
If you’re having trouble getting a job because of your criminal record, and you were not convicted, an attorney may be able to help.
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