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What is expungement?

Many people in Virginia may have heard of expungement, but may not know what it means. Expungement, in its simplest term, is the "sealing" of one's legal record of an arrest or criminal conviction. While the arrest or conviction for most intents and purposes does not appear on a person's criminal background, it does not mean that it completely erased. It can still be accessed and used under certain circumstances.

Although the expunged conviction or arrest will not be accessible to potential employers, educational institutions, private investigators or anyone who searches through one's public record, it is still accessible to law enforcement and the courts. Even the sealed arrest or conviction can be used in the court of law during subsequent trials as a previous offense.

Depending upon the nature and severity of the arrest or conviction and the amount of time that has elapsed since the incident, and the person's criminal record, an expungement may be possible. The process is not always easy. It requires a fee to be paid at the time of the request, and may require papers to be served to a district attorney or to the criminal courts to be reviewed by a judge. Depending up on the jurisdiction, a hearing may also be required by the judge. The judge will ultimately decide whether or not the expungement is granted.

An expungement is never guaranteed, and the laws vary by state. There are certain and specific requirements and qualifications to have your request considered by the courts. In order to see whether you can have an arrest or conviction expunged, it may help to speak with a criminal defense attorney.

Source: FindLaw, "Expungement Basics," Accessed June 12, 2017

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