When convicted of a crime, there is nothing wrong with wanting to clear one's record or ensure it is sealed. Having a conviction set aside can change one's life for the better. This week's column will address a few common questions many people have before deciding whether to pursue expungements in the state of Virginia.
Question number one: Who is eligible to receive an expungement? The courts look at various factors to determine if one is eligible to have one's record expunged. These factors include the details of the crime, when the crime occurred and one's previous criminal history. Ultimately, a judge will get to decide if one is eligible to receive an expungement.
Question number two: Is there a difference between expungement and having records sealed? Yes. Expungement is essentially the clearing of one's record, though it is still accessible by certain law enforcement agencies. Having records sealed, on the other hand, does not clear one's record, it just makes it unavailable to the public. Records expunged or sealed may still be counted as prior offenses if one is charged with a criminal offense in the future, so neither completely erases a conviction.
Question number three: Is seeking an expungement really worthwhile? Having one's record expunged or sealed will make it easier for a person to seek employment, obtain housing, seek credit, go to school and take other steps to move forward in life. It is certainly worth at least looking into.
Expungements are not necessarily easy to come by. Not everyone convicted of a crime in Virginia will be eligible to have their records expunged or sealed. Legal counsel will have the ability to review the finer details of one's conviction and help one determine if pursuing an expungement is worth the effort. If it is, one's attorney will be there to guide one through the process.