When you apply for a job, most employers perform a background check on your legal history. If you have a criminal record, the employer may not hire you. However, obtaining an expungement, which completely erases a criminal charge from your record, may improve your chances of passing a background check. This process is not so easy if your crimes were committed in Virginia because of the state's strict qualification guidelines in regard to expungement.
Determine if you are eligible for expungement. You can confer with a lawyer or do some research on your own to find all of Virginia's qualifications. Refer to the Virginia Legal Aid Society website for a list of qualifications. If you do not qualify under Virginia law, ask a lawyer about your options.
Obtain a copy of the original arrest warrant and the disposition for each criminal charge on your record you want expunged. If you have more than one charge, there will most likely be a case number and paperwork for each. Your county clerk's office can provide copies for you.
Prepare a petition. This is a formal request to have an expungement request reviewed and heard by a judge. The petition must include your full name at the time of arrest, your date of birth and social security number, the date of arrest, the agency that arrested you, the charge you want expunged, the final date of the charge's disposition and the reason why you are seeking the expungement. You may also include a statement asserting that you are innocent of the charge. Your county clerk's office can provide you with a petition form or tell you where to obtain one.
File your petition with the county clerk. Include copies of the warrants and disposition for all charges. You must pay a fee to file. Call the clerk's office before you visit to find out the exact charges for filing. After you file, the clerk will give you two copies of your petition, one for you to keep, and one for the local police department.
Call the local police department to schedule a time to be fingerprinted. Bring the police department a copy of your petition when you go for fingerprinting. The police department will send your petition and fingerprints to the Central Criminal Records Exchange in Richmond to order documentation of your criminal history. You must pay a small fee for this, usually about $5.
Wait for your criminal history report. It usually takes about one month for the Central Criminal Records Exchange to send documentation of your criminal history to the Circuit Court. Once the court has this report, you will receive a hearing date. If you do not receive a response after a month, call the court to check your status.
Complete an expungement relief order. You must take this order with you to the hearing.
The website for the Dinwiddie County courts has a sample form to download (See Resources). You can also obtain a form from the clerk's office. If you have questions about completing it, confer with an attorney or call the clerk's office for guidance. If the judge approves your application when you appear in court, you must give him your completed relief order. He will sign this order and give it back to you.
Attend the hearing. You must explain to the judge why you are requesting the expungement. If she approves your petition, the expungement relief order you completed prior to the hearing will be signed by the judge and sent to the clerk's office. The clerk will process the order and send a copy to the Department of Criminal Justice Services in Richmond. The expunged criminal charge will be deleted from your record, but it will take about six months after the hearing for your information to update in the databases of all law enforcement agencies.