The American system of law works most of the time, but in some cases, it leaves people worse off than they started. This is especially true of those who were wrongly accused of a crime and subsequently found not guilty by a judge or jury of their peers. Even when acquitted of criminal wrongdoing in a court of law, a person might still be subject to life-changing suspicion from friends, family, and colleagues. It is not fair.
This is one of the reasons it is so important to retain counsel when charged with a crime. A criminal defense lawyer can reduce the chance of a guilty verdict, or negotiate a plea deal in order to reduce the charge or subsequent sentence. When a case moves to trial and a jury finds a defendant not guilty, the person acquitted of the crime may have another legal option to make life easier at home: expungements.
What Are Expungements?
Although not everyone is eligible to receive expungements, some are. Expungement is the process of sealing both police and court records from public view after a person is arrested and charged, but not convicted. The records are not destroyed. Instead, they can only be viewed by certain parties (such as law enforcement), and only with the permission of the court.
Who Is Eligible For An Expungement?
Each state has its own laws for expungements of arrest records. In Virginia, there are only a few circumstances in which a person may be eligible for expungements:
- If a person is charged with contempt of court during civil action, and subsequently found not guilty of the charge.
- If a person is arrested, charged, pleads not guilty to criminal activity, and is subsequently acquitted of the charge.
- If a person is arrested, but the Commonwealth Attorney’s office decides against criminal prosecution.
- If a person’s identity is stolen and used without his or her knowledge during a criminal case.
- If a person is arrested, charged, convicted, and subsequently receives an absolute pardon for the charge.
- If a person charged with a misdemeanor can be sued in civil court, but the injured party presents written confirmation that he or she has received the appropriate restitution for any damages incurred, and the case is subsequently dismissed.
- If a person is under the age of 18 when convicted of criminal activity.
A person is not eligible for expungements after agreeing to a plea bargain, because this only occurs when a person accepts guilt. The same is true even if a person pleads no contest to the charges. If federal charges were lodged against an individual, there is still a possibility they may be expunged.
How Can You Obtain An Expungement?
Unfortunately, those who are acquitted of a criminal charge are not automatically eligible for the expungement of any associated police and court records. All a person can do is make the request. The judge will likely grant the request unless the commonwealth’s attorney decides to object to the expungement. An expungement case can be further complicated if there are other convictions on your record, or if there was more than one charge. For example, if you are charged with both a misdemeanor and a felony, and then acquitted of only the misdemeanor, the judge is less likely to grant the expungement.
A Fairfax criminal defense lawyer can help you obtain an expungement as quickly as the court system allows. The first step requires the completion of a simple petition for expungement. If you were charged in Fairfax, then the court action would be brought forth to the circuit court for that jurisdiction. In the event of mistaken identity, then the petition would be made to the circuit court in the jurisdiction where the associated case actually took place.
Although it is possible to obtain the required legal forms to make and file a petition without an attorney present, no one in court is legally allowed to provide you with relevant legal advice. The only “advice” you are likely to receive is that you should have spoken to a criminal defense attorney before making your case. If not eligible for expungement, an attorney will explain why.
Call A Fairfax Expungements Attorney Now!
Criminal charges can follow you around even after you have been found not guilty, and no one should have to deal with lifelong consequences if not guilty of a crime. A qualified Fairfax lawyer is always available to discuss the details any arrest, criminal charges, or ongoing defense. Our Fairfax, VA Law Firm is committed to ensuring that charges made against our clients are fair and just. If not, then we are ready to seek the immediate expungement of any associated records on a client’s behalf. Contact us now!