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A criminal record can cause problems in several areas, including employment, housing, banking, and college enrollment. However, Virginia law allows you to seal your criminal record from public view so it does not show up on a background check. The process of sealing your record is called an expungement.

Expungement Eligibility

In Virginia, you must maintain actual innocence in order to have your charge expunged. Therefore, if you were convicted of a charge you may not have it expunged from your record. If your criminal charge resulted in a plea deal or a guilty verdict, the conviction will stay on your record forever.

However, if you were acquitted or found not guilty, you may be eligible for expungement. The following list includes charges that can be expunged:

  • Acquittals
  • Not guilty findings
  • Charges dismissed with or without prejudice (“nolle prosequi”)
  • Arrests that did not lead to a conviction
  • Charges for which you later receive an absolute pardon
  • Charges on your record which were a case of mistaken identity or identity fraud


Step 1: Petition

Virginia Code requires you file a petition with a copy of all records (including warrants or indictments) to be expunged. The petition needs to be filed in the circuit court for the county or city where your case took place.

Step 2: Fingerprints

You will need to bring a copy of your petition to the police station or other local law enforcement agency and get your fingerprints taken. The law enforcement agency will submit your fingerprints to the Central Criminal Records Exchange (CCRE). The CCRE will then process your fingerprints and send a copy of your criminal history and the documents that contain the charge you wish to expunge to the court where your petition was filed.

Step 3: Hearing

At your court hearing, you and your attorney will need to present proof that having the charge on your record would harm you and explain why you are eligible for expungement. The Commonwealth’s Attorney can oppose your petition and present arguments against your expungement, and you and your attorney can respond and rebut any evidence the Commonwealth presented.

Step 4: Order

If the court grants your petition for expungement, the process of sealing your criminal record will begin. You will get a copy of the expungement order for your records. The process of sealing your records may take several weeks or even months. Once the expungement process is completely, you can truthfully say that the charge does not exist and no longer have to worry about it showing up on a background check.

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