Virginia lawmakers recently passed legislation that will drastically alter the state’s expungement laws. The state will make thousands of people eligible to seal their criminal records. Doing so may create new opportunities for those with minor criminal blemishes that show up during background checks.
Beginning in 2025, those convicted of certain misdemeanor offenses will be able to have the state seal the record of those offenses to help them diminish the lasting consequences those charges carry. Provided that they follow the right process, people with minor prior convictions can have the state expunge or seal their records so that they can pass background checks.
Many people may, therefore, need to wait to pursue an expungement until they are clearly eligible to make this effort. Others who are about to apply for financial aid for school or throw their hat in the ring for a promotion at work won’t be able to wait for the law to change. Who is currently eligible to have criminal records expunged or sealed in Virginia before the reformed rules go into effect?
Expungement is only available for those not convicted
The current system for expungements in Virginia is very restrictive. Rather than only being open to those accused of non-violent misdemeanor offenses, expungement is only an option for those who avoid a criminal conviction.
Those who plead guilty or get convicted in court generally are not eligible. However, those who went to court and got acquitted can potentially expunge the record of their court proceedings and the arrest that led to their prosecution. The same would be true in cases where the state dismisses the charges against an individual and where someone receives an absolute pardon. It is also possible for people to seal the records related to certain juvenile offenses so that a youthful mistake won’t permanently alter their options in life. Finally, those who were victims of identity theft can seek expungement of any criminal record associated with the theft of their personal information.
Learning more about Virginia’s current expungement program and the expansion that will take effect in 2025 may help those who have had a prior brush with the criminal justice system improve the opportunities they can access in the future.