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Looking at the expungement process

Should past mistakes follow Virginia residents around for the rest of their lives? We at the law office of Robert F. Rider believe that the answer is "not necessarily." A criminal charge or arrest can follow you around for a long time, and it can be difficult to get started on a new life when potential landlords and employers keep drudging up your past when you try to rent an apartment or apply for a job, but in some cases, it may be possible to remove past arrests or charges from your criminal record through the process of expungement, although the process is not easy and involves a lot of paperwork.

According to the Supreme Court of Virginia, the process starts with a petition for expungement, a form that you fill out with specific information about yourself, i.e., the petitioner. You need to provide information about yourself on the expungement petition, including your full name at the time of arrest, your date of birth and the specific charges you want expunged from your record.

In addition to information about yourself, you must obtain and include copies of your fingerprints as well as a copy of your indictment or warrant as reasonably available. You need to make a copy of your petition to submit to the attorney for the Commonwealth for the appropriate city or county. The attorney for the Commonwealth then has twenty-one days to answer the petition, whether that be to file an objection to the petition or submit written notice that he or she does not object to it.

Be aware, however, that merely filing a petition does not guarantee expungement of your record. The Commonwealth of Virginia grants expungement only under very specific circumstances: 

  • Prior to your trial, a plaintiff dropped the charges against you
  • After you pleaded not guilty at trial, a jury found you not guilty
  • Upon stealing your identity, someone else used it to commit a crime
  • Following conviction, you received a pardon 

If you are eligible for expungement of your record, you have the right to pursue it. More information on expungement is available on our website. 

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