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Can I get my criminal conviction expunged / cleared from my record?

This is a question I get fairly often. A criminal conviction can follow a person forever. It can cause all kinds of difficulty with employment opportunities, security clearances, and even collateral issues like child custody.

Conviction vs. Charged vs. Dismissed vs. Dismissed as First Offender

There are some states that provide for expungement of old criminal convictions, but Virginia is not one of them. Virginia only provides for expungement of arrests and prosecutions in cases where the charge was resolved favorably to the defendant (i.e., dismissed, nolle prossequi, not guilty, etc.). In those cases, the individual can petition to expunge the records of his or her arrest and prosecution.

Where the individual was found guilty (i.e., convicted), or where the charge was dismissed as the result of a First Offender Program (or similar dismissal), there is no option to expunge the records of arrest or prosecution. In that situation, the only option is to petition for an absolute pardon from the Governor—which is so unlikely to be granted that I hesitate to even mention it.

(For a description on the First Offender Program, see my blog post regarding Consequences for Possession of Marijuana.)

This is an unfortunate flaw in Virginia’s expungement laws. I once spoke with an out-of-state corporate executive who was on the brink of retirement when the company’s background check revealed a minor theft conviction from when they were 18 years old. Because of the “theft” nature of the charge, the individual’s employment (and retirement) was jeopardized some 40 years after-the-fact. The person had not disclosed the conviction earlier because they had legitimately forgotten about it when they took the job. With the developments in technology and digital record keeping, the conviction finally popped up several decades later. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do to help them.

If you would like to discuss options for an expungement of criminal charges, contact my office today to schedule a consultation.

If you are facing a pending criminal charge, please take note of how serious a criminal conviction can be. Do not assume that you can handle your charge on your own! You have nothing to lose by calling!

To schedule an office appointment or telephone consultation, please call (757) 333-7529 or use the Contact page.

Categories: Criminal Defense

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