Expungement Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What If I Pled Nolo Contendere (No Contest) To The Charge? Can I Get The Arrest Record Expunged?”
A: No. While a plea of Nolo Contendere or No Contest is not technically a confession of guilt, it is an expression of willingness to be considered guilty by the judge for purpose of imposition of judgment and sentence. After entering a Nolo Contendere plea, a Judge finds the Defendant guilty. Thus, this plea is not consistent with a claim of innocence that is necessary when petitioning for expungement.
Q: I Was Advised By My Lawyer To Plead Guilty To A Misdemeanor A Long Time Ago. Can I Get The Record Expunged?
A: No. Pleading guilty to a criminal charge precludes a claim of innocence later. It doesn’t matter if it was (only) a misdemeanor or a felony or how much time has passed since your conviction. A conviction in Virginia is permanent, unless you obtain an Absolute Pardon from the Governor (which is highly unlikely).
Q: The Judge Dismissed The Charge Against Me. Can I Petition For Expungement Of Those Records?
A: Maybe. But a dismissal does not automatically qualify you for expungement of the record. Remember the standard is one of innocence. There are certain charges that are “dismissed” after complying with certain requirements. For example a person charged with Possession of Marijuana (1st offense) can complete a program and at the end of probation, if the defendant has complied with all requirements, the charge is “dismissed.” However, there is usually a stipulation of facts sufficient for a conviction by the Defendant and the judge usually indicates on the summons or warrant a finding of guilt withheld until the end of the program. These “dismissals” are not eligible for expungement.
Q: My Lawyer Told Me That Because I Was Charged With A Misdemeanor And I Have No Prior Record, An Acquittal Means I Should Be Granted An Expungement. Is This Correct?
A: Yes. If a Petitioner has no prior record and is seeking expungement of a misdemeanor charge, then the applicant shall be entitled to expungement relief unless the Commonwealth Attorney’s office presents good cause at the hearing on a petition to show the court why the remedy should not be granted. Virginia Code Section 19.2-392.2 (F).
Q: If I Was Charged With A Felony That Was Later Dismissed (Because Of Innocence), What Do I Have To Show The Court To Be Granted An Expungement Of This Record?
A: The Court will require clear evidence that demonstrates that keeping this charge/arrest on your record “causes or may cause circumstances which constitute manifest injustice.” Virginia Code Section 19.2-392.2 (F). An example of this injustice can include a letter from prospective employer indicating that a clean criminal record is required to be offered employment.
Q: What Are The Benefits Of Expungement Of A Criminal Record?
A: Under Virginia law, a person does not need to disclose in any applications any information about an arrest or criminal charge that has been expunged. Virginia Code Section 19.2-392.4 (A). In other words, if you are asked in any job or school application whether you have ever been arrested or charged with a crime, you can lawfully answer “No.”