Being Found “Not Guilty” Means that My Record Is Clean—Right?
You don’t need us to know that being convicted of a criminal offense can negatively affect your future regardless of the severity of the crime. Convictions can lead to losing your job, jail time, fines, the loss of basic civil rights such as the right to vote, and even the loss of driving privileges.
However, if you were charged with a crime but not convicted, you have nothing to worry about, right? Wrong.
Being charged with a criminal offense can negatively affect your life even if you were ultimately not convicted. If you were arrested, you now have a criminal record that will follow you around for the rest of your life. These criminal charges will appear on background checks and may affect your ability to find gainful employment or even rent an apartment. Fortunately, you might qualify to take these criminal charges off of your record through a process called “expungement.” Let the experienced expungement lawyers at Hawthorne & Hawthorne help you to clean up your record.
How Do I Know if I Qualify to Have My Arrest Record Expunged?
Some states offer the ability to have previous convictions removed from a criminal record after a certain number of years. Virginia is not one of those states. Under Virginia law, you may qualify to petition the circuit court to have your criminal record expunged only if:
- You were acquitted of the crime (in other words, found “not guilty”);
- An order of nolle prosequi was entered for the crime (in other words, the prosecution dropped the charge against you);
- The charge was dismissed;
- You were convicted, but you were later granted an absolute pardon by the Governor of Virginia; or
- Your name or other identification has been used without your consent or authorization by someone who was charged or arrested using your name or identification.
If you meet one of the criteria above, or if you are not sure if you do and want a lawyer to help you figure out whether or not you qualify, contact one of the experienced lawyers at Hawthorne & Hawthorne today to discuss the process of having your criminal record expunged!
How Do I Have My Arrest Record Expunged?
Step 1: Filing the Petition with the Court
If you qualify for an expungement of court and police records, the first step is to file a petition with the circuit court of the county or city in which the charge against you was prosecuted. The petition will contain information such as the date of arrest, the arresting agency, your personal identifiable information (such as date of birth), the charge to be expunged, and the date of the final disposition of the court case. When available, a copy of the warrant or indictment is often attached to the petition for the court’s reference. Our experienced attorneys will work with you during this step in the process to ensure that all eligible charges are included in your petition for expungement.
Once the petition is filed with the court, a copy is served upon the Commonwealth’s Attorney, thus making them a party to the proceedings. The Commonwealth’s Attorney must then respond within 21 days. The Commonwealth’s Attorney may give notice to the court that they do not object to the petition, or the Commonwealth’s Attorney may file an objection or other answer to the petition. Just because the Commonwealth’s Attorney objects to the petition for expungement does not mean the expungement will not be granted. Our experienced attorneys will put their skills to the test arguing in open court why you are entitled to an expungement of police and court records.
Step 2: Submitting Your Fingerprints and Getting a Copy of Your Criminal Record
While awaiting a reply from the Commonwealth’s Attorney, you must obtain a complete set of fingerprints from a law enforcement agency and provide them with a copy of the petition for expungement. It is our experience that this step is the most stressful for our clients. (After all, who actually likes going to the police station?) We will simplify this step by helping you schedule your appointment to have your fingerprints taken and providing you with a letter that details the reason for your visit.
Once the law enforcement agency has successfully obtained a complete set of fingerprints, they must submit them to the Central Criminal Records Exchange (CCRE), along with a copy of the petition for expungement. The fingerprints are used to obtain your criminal history. The criminal history, the reason for the CCRE entry that you wish to expunge, and the set of fingerprints are then submitted to the court for the purposes of scheduling a hearing.
Step 3: Going to Court
Once all that initial legwork has been done, it will be time to present your case to a judge. In most cases, for the expungement to be granted, you must prove to the judge that the continued existence of the charge on your criminal record creates a “manifest injustice” to you. Otherwise, the judge will deny the petition. Our attorneys will stand by your side, in open court, and argue the reasons why the continued existence of the criminal charge on your record creates a manifest injustice to you.
There is one main exception to this. If you have no prior criminal record and the arrest was for a misdemeanor violation, you are automatically entitled to the expungement of court and police records, unless the Commonwealth’s Attorney can prove that there is some good reason to keep the arrest on your record.
Step 4: Enjoying Your Clean Record!
If the court grants the petition for expungement, the clerk of the court will forward a copy of the order for expungement to the Department of State Police for them to proceed with the destruction of all court and police records relating to the charge. You will then reap the benefits of being able to legally claim that you were not arrested or charged with the commission of the expunged charge. The charge will no longer appear on your criminal record, and you may treat the arrest as if it never happened.
The process of obtaining an expungement of court and police records for a criminal offense takes several months from beginning to end. Our attorneys will be with you every step of the way to make this process as simple and painless as possible. We will keep you informed of the latest developments in the case, such as notifying you of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s answer to the petition and the scheduling of the court hearing, as well as being readily available to answer any questions or concerns that you may have along the way.
Contact One of Our Skilled Expungement Lawyers Today!
Being charged criminally is a serious thing. A criminal charge can follow you for the rest of your life, even if you weren’t convicted. Make sure to hire competent legal representation to protect your record.
Our attorneys are experienced in clearing up clients’ criminal records in local courts throughout Southside Virginia, including the courts in Amelia County, Appomattox County, Buckingham County, Brunswick County, Campbell County, Charlotte County, Cumberland County, Dinwiddie County, Halifax County, Lunenburg County, Mecklenburg County, Nottoway County, and Prince Edward County.
If you have been charged with a crime and were later acquitted or found not guilty, or the charge was otherwise dismissed, contact the skilled expungement lawyers at Hawthorne & Hawthorne today!