Virginia - Expungement

What is Expungement?

Virginia offers expungement of some adult criminal records, which is similar to what most states call "sealing." In Virginia, an expunged record is simply hidden from public view, not destroyed. For example, private employers, landlords, and banks cannot see an expunged record. Judges, law enforcement, and some Commonwealth employers may have access to expunged records.

Expungement in Virginia is very limited because it requires innocence. That means only "not guilty" or "nolle prosequi" dispositions, and dismissals, are eligible for expungement. If you accepted a plea bargain, or you pleaded "no contest," that charge cannot be expunged.

Virginia automatically expunges juvenile records once you turn 19 and five years have passed since your last juvenile hearing. Virginia DMV records are automatically destroyed when you turn 29.

Who is Eligible for Expungement?

In general, you are eligible to have a record expunged if charges were dismissed, you were found not guilty, the prosecutor decided not to pursue the case (nolle prosequi), you were a victim of identity theft, or you received an absolute pardon. Convictions are not eligible for expungement unless they are the result of identity theft.

You may be eligible for expungement if any of the following statements are true:

  • You were charged with a crime, and you were found not guilty, the case was dismissed, or the Commonwealth attorney did not pursue the case (nolle prosequi).
  • You were charged with contempt in a civil court but found not guilty.
  • You were charged with assault and battery or other misdemeanor that could have resulted in a civil lawsuit; the victim wrote a statement that he or she has received satisfaction for the injury; and the case against you was dismissed.
  • You received an absolute pardon from the Governor of Virginia.
  • You were the victim of identity theft, so you are innocent of the charges resulting from that theft.

What Effect Does Expungement Have?

Once a Virginia court grants an expungement, the court orders the Virginia State Police (VSP) to remove the record from public view. All police departments and courts seal the record. The only way to see the expunged record is with a court order. Once you receive an expungement, you can legally deny that arrest or charge.

Once a Virginia court expunges juvenile records, the records are available only by another court order.

When Can I Apply for Expungement?

You can apply for an expungement any time after the final disposition of your case. If you were the victim of identity theft, you can apply immediately.

Virginia automatically expunges juvenile records once you turn 19 and five years have passed since your last juvenile hearing. Virginia DMV records are automatically destroyed when you turn 29.

How Do I Apply for Expungement?

Here are the eight steps to apply for expungement:

  1. Get the "Petition for Expungement Filed in a Circuit Court - Acquittal/Dismissal" Form CC-1473. To access the expungement form and instructions, visit the Virginia's Judicial System website here: Petition for Expungement. You may also get this form from the court clerk. The first page of the petition has general instructions, the second page is the form itself, the third page has a list of "Data Elements, and the fourth page lists the Virginia law.
  2. Complete the Petition for Expungement form. Be sure to read all instructions.
  3. Ask the clerk to make a copy of the completed Petition for Expungement form and make copies of all documents for yourself.
  4. File your completed petition for expungement with the clerk of the circuit court in the county where you were charged. Virginia law requires that you deliver the petition to the Commonwealth Attorney. Most county sheriffs do this for you.
  5. Pay the fee. The fee is usually included when you file the petition with the court clerk. The fee is $86 to file the expungement petition and a $12 service fee when filed by the sheriff. If you are seeking expungement because you were the victim of identity theft,  the petition is free.
  6. Get fingerprinted. Go to a Virginia State Police (VSP) department and have your fingerprints taken. For more information about fingerprinting, visit the VSP website here: Fingerprinting for Non-Criminal Purposes.
  7. Pay the $15 fingerprinting fee. 
  8. Bring a copy of your filed petition with you to the police department. The VSP will have the Central Criminal Records Exchange (CCRE) run a record check on you and then send the record to the court, which will take about four to six weeks. Your petition for expungement will not move ahead until the court gets the record from the CCRE.

    The Court will review your petition. The Commonwealth Attorney has 21 days after receiving your petition to object to the court. If the attorney does not object, the charge to be expunged is a misdemeanor, and you have no other charges, you are entitled to expungement. If you are entitled to be expunged, the court will order it and notify you.

    If the charge to be expunged is a felony, or you have multiple charges, expungement is hard to get. You will probably have a hearing on your petition. At the hearing, you must prove to the court that it would be a "manifest injustice" to keep the charge on your record.  A "manifest injustice" occurs when keeping the record may or does affect the person's credit, housing, or employment.

More Information About Expungement

For more information about expungement, call the Virginia State Police Central Criminal Records Exchange at (804) 674-6754.

Related Links

Virginia Legal Aid
Virginia State Police

The Papillon Foundation - Virginia Criminal Record Resources
Virginia - Restoration of Rights, Pardon, Expungement & Sealing