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A Breakdown of Virginia Expungement Laws & Requirements

virginia expungement law

Looking to understand Virginia expungement laws? This guide reviews the requirements and steps you'll need to go through to apply for an expungement in the state. Get started now!

What is Expungement?

Expungement, which is in essence destroying a criminal record, is a legal process that involves petitioning the court to remove criminal charges from a person’s criminal record when the charge is ultimately dismissed or not prosecuted. Virginia expungement laws, like those in many other states, aim to provide individuals with a second chance by allowing them to have their criminal record destroyed, making it more difficult for potential employers, landlords, or other organizations to access their criminal arrest history when a conviction has not occurred.  Expungement is often sought by individuals who are seeking employment, housing, or other opportunities that may be impacted by a criminal record, even when the record shows that they were never convicted of the offense. 

What is the Process for Obtaining an Expungement?

In Virginia, the process of obtaining an expungement is governed by state law and involves filing a petition with the Circuit Court in the jurisdiction where you were charged (in cases of charges being brought when someone else steals your identity, the expungement is to be handled in the court disposing of the case). As part of the process, you will be required to submit to fingerprinting and send a copy of your petition will be sent to the Commonwealth’s Attorney for review. Regardless of whether any objections are filed, the court will schedule a hearing to consider your petition.

During the hearing, you or your attorney will need to present arguments and evidence to demonstrate why good cause exists for expunging your record(s). This may include demonstrating how your criminal record has caused difficulties for you, such as the loss of employment or educational opportunities. Whenever the continued existence of the record(s) is shown to constitute a “manifest injustice” the court should grant the petition

How Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help Understand Virginia Expungement Laws?

A lawyer can be a valuable resource if you are seeking to have your criminal record expunged in Virginia. An experienced lawyer can help you navigate the complex expungement process and increase your chances of success.

Here are some specific ways in which a criminal defense lawyer can help with expungement:

  1. Determine your eligibility for expungement: A criminal defense lawyer can review your criminal record and help you determine if you are eligible under Virginia expungement laws. They can also advise you on any steps you may need to take in order to become eligible, such as obtaining certified copies of court documents showing your innocence.
  2. File a petition for expungement: A criminal defense lawyer can help you prepare and file a petition for expungement with the court, the Virginia State Police, and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. This may involve gathering the necessary documentation and information, such as a copy of your criminal record and evidence of how your criminal record has impacted your life.
  3. Represent you at the expungement hearing: If your petition for expungement is granted a hearing, a criminal defense lawyer can represent you and present your case to the court. They can present evidence and make arguments on your behalf, helping to persuade the court to grant your expungement request.
  4. Advise you on the impact of expungement: A criminal defense lawyer can also advise you on the impact of expungement on your life. While expungement can help to remove certain criminal charges from your record, it may not completely erase your criminal history. A criminal defense lawyer can explain the limitations of expungement and help you understand what to expect after your record is expunged.
  5. Overall, working with a criminal defense lawyer can be an important step in the expungement process, helping you to understand your rights and options and increasing your chances of success under Virginia expungement laws.

Virginia’s 2021 Record-Sealing Law

In 2021, Virginia passed a new law that allows individuals with certain criminal records to have their records sealed under certain circumstances. This law was passed on July 1, 2021, and goes into effect July 1, 2025. It applies to arrests, criminal charges and even criminal convictions. The crimes covered include misdemeanors, Class 5 and Class 6 felonies, as well as grand larceny and offenses punishable as grand larceny. Case types ineligible for sealing also include driving under the influence crimes, manslaughter, and domestic assault & battery.

Under the Record-Sealing Law, individuals who have been convicted of a criminal offense in Virginia may be eligible to have their records sealed if they meet certain requirements. To be eligible for record sealing, individuals must:

  • Have completed the jail or prison terms of their sentence
  • Have no pending criminal charges or cases
  • Have no convictions for a Class 1 or 2 felony, and no convictions for Class 3 or 4 felonies within the past 20 years, and no convictions for any other felony within 10 years of the petition
  • If you meet these requirements and have a criminal record that you would like to have sealed, you may be able to petition the court for record sealing. The process for petitioning for record sealing is similar to the process for expungement and may involve filing a petition with the court, attending a hearing, and waiting for a decision on the petition.


It is important to note that the Record-Sealing Law does not apply to all criminal charges or convictions. Some common examples of crimes that are not eligible for record sealing under the law include serious felonies.  

Serious felonies, such as murder, rape, and armed robbery, are generally not eligible for record sealing under the Record-Sealing Law. Only Class 5 and 6 felonies are covered; Class 1, 2, 3, and 4 felonies are not covered.

Even when a record is sealed, there are limited instances in which the seal does not apply (such as when applying to a law enforcement job, or when attempting to purchase a firearm).

It is important to note that the eligibility requirements for record sealing under the Record-Sealing Law may vary depending on the specific circumstances of your case. In order to determine if you are eligible for record sealing and which crimes may be eligible for record sealing, it is recommended that you consult with a lawyer who is familiar with the laws and procedures in Virginia.

Contact us today for a free consultation to learn more about how Virginia expungement laws can provide you with a second chance and to see if you’re eligible for record sealing under the new 2021 law. Experienced former prosecutor David G. Parker is here to guide you through the process, answer your questions, and advocate on your behalf during hearings. Take the first step toward a brighter future – get in touch with us now.


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