Getting charged with a criminal or serious traffic offense is difficult. A million thoughts can run through your mind including, “what does my future look like?” Having a conviction on your record carries a stigma that can make obtaining employment difficult. But even beyond a conviction, merely having an arrest record can likewise carry significant collateral consequences. If you were acquitted, your case was dismissed, or the Commonwealth decided not to pursue charges (nolle prosequi), because your case is a public record you may still run the risk that an employer, prospective business partner, or any other individual may know that you had been charged. This public information about your charge can be disheartening for many reasons. First, it may make you a less competitive applicant when marketing yourself for a job. It can also make passing background checks more difficult. It can hinder internship opportunities, affect college application decisions, and even hurt your personal relationships. Because even when a person is found “Not Guilty”, the mere existence of the charge can come with societal stigma.
What can be done? Virginia law allows certain cases to be removed from public view or access by way of a petition for expungement. (See Virginia Code § 19.2-392.2). Whether the charge came about through a misunderstanding and the case was dismissed, a petition for an expungement can be filed to clear the charge from one’ arrest record. It allows for a clean slate, allowing the person to live free of the stigma that comes with having an arrest record.
Does my case qualify to be expunged? Not all cases can be expunged under Virginia law. Unfortunately the law only permits very narrow relief for cases where a person has been convicted, or even given a deferred finding and dismissal. Most convictions cannot be expunged. An attorney at TATE BYWATER can advise you if your particular case qualifies for expungement relief.
How do expungements work? Each process differs slightly depending on the county they will be heard in, but simply put: 1) a petition needs to be filed; 2) the petitioner needs to obtain fingerprints to be attached to the court’s file; and 3) once the petition and prints are received by the court, an expungement hearing needs to be placed on the docket. At the expungement hearing, you may need to put on evidence on how the existence of the arrest record constitutes a “manifest injustice”.
While it is possible to navigate the expungement process without an attorney, having an attorney take you through the process can be immensely helpful. If you engage TATE BYWATER, an attorney will ensure your petition is correctly drafted and filed, and assist you at your expungement hearing. Having an arrest record successfully expunged should not be left to chance. An experienced attorney at TATE BYWATER can help.