Virginia Record Sealing & Expungement Blog

How to Clear a Virginia Criminal Record

Last updated: June 28, 2024

How to Clear a Virginia Criminal Record

Virginia will soon have two types of record clearing laws: expungement and record sealing. Both types of laws are effective tools to clear a Virginia criminal record. Understanding the differences between these laws and the impacts they have are essential for individuals with criminal records.

Navigating the complexities of clearing a criminal record in Virginia can be daunting, but understanding the nuances of Virginia’s expungement and new record sealing laws can provide a clear path forward. Whether your charges were dismissed, nolle prossed, or resulted in a conviction, there are legal avenues available to help you move on with a clean slate. This blog post aims to elucidate the processes and provide a comprehensive guide to clearing your Virginia criminal record.

Understanding Virginia’s Expungement Laws

Virginia’s existing expungement laws are primarily designed for individuals who were charged with a crime but not convicted. This includes cases where charges were dismissed, nolle prossed (not prosecuted), or where the individual was found not guilty. Expungement essentially means that the records of your arrest and court proceedings are erased as if they never occurred.

Eligibility for Expungement

To be eligible for expungement under current Virginia law, one of the following conditions must be met:

  1. The charges against you were dismissed.
  2. The charges were nolle prossed.
  3. You were acquitted (found not guilty).
  4. You were the victim of identity theft and the charges were actually meant for another individual.

The Expungement Process

The process of expungement involves several steps:

  1. Filing a Petition: The first step is to file a petition for expungement in the circuit court where the charges were filed. This petition includes details about your case, the charges, and the outcome.
  2. Fingerprints Submission: You must submit your fingerprints to the Virginia State Police, who will conduct a criminal history check.
  3. Court Hearing: A court hearing is scheduled where you or your must present your case. The Commonwealth’s Attorney (prosecutor) may oppose the petition, but if the court finds that your continued record causes or may cause a manifest injustice, it will grant the expungement.
  4. Order of Expungement: If the court grants the petition, an order of expungement is issued. This order directs the relevant agencies to remove the records from their databases.

New Record Sealing Laws Effective July 1, 2025

While expungement has been a valuable tool for those not convicted of crimes, many individuals with convictions have had limited options to clear their records. This changes with Virginia’s new record sealing laws, set to take effect on July 1, 2025. These laws provide an opportunity to seal records of certain criminal convictions, thus limiting public access and providing a second chance for many.

What Does Record Sealing Mean?

Record sealing means that the records are not destroyed but are hidden from public view. Only certain entities, such as law enforcement and some government agencies, will have access to the sealed records. This can significantly improve opportunities for employment, housing, and other areas of life where a criminal record may pose a barrier.

Eligibility for Record Sealing

The new laws outline specific eligibility criteria for sealing criminal records:

  1. Misdemeanor Convictions: Misdemeanor convictions (except domestic violence and DUIs) can be sealed after a waiting period of seven years, provided the individual has no new convictions and has completed all terms of their sentence.
  2. Non-Violent Felony Convictions: Certain non-violent felony convictions can be sealed after a waiting period of ten years, with similar conditions of no new convictions and sentence completion.
  3. Charges Deferred and Dismissed: These can also be sealed, making the process somewhat similar to expungement but under the new legislative framework.

The Record Sealing Process

  1. Petition for Sealing: Similar to expungement, a petition must be filed in the circuit court. The petition should detail the conviction, the date of the conviction, and evidence of rehabilitation and compliance with sentencing terms.
  2. Notification and Hearing: The Commonwealth’s Attorney and any victims involved in the case must be notified of the petition. A hearing will be scheduled where both parties can present their arguments.
  3. Court Decision: The court will decide based on the evidence presented, considering factors such as the nature of the offense, the individual’s behavior since the conviction, and the potential benefits of sealing the record.
  4. Order of Sealing: If granted, an order of sealing will be issued, directing the relevant agencies to restrict public access to the records.

Key Differences Between Expungement and Record Sealing

  1. Eligibility: Expungement is available primarily for charges that did not result in a conviction, while the new record sealing laws also apply to certain convictions.
  2. Public Access: Expunged records are erased as if they never existed, while sealed records are hidden from public view but still exist.
  3. Scope: Expungement laws have a narrower scope, focusing on dismissed charges and acquittals. The new sealing laws provide broader relief, including for certain misdemeanor and non-violent felony convictions.


Understanding and utilizing Virginia’s expungement and new record sealing laws can provide significant relief for individuals looking to move forward without the burden of a criminal record. Whether you are eligible for expungement under the current laws or looking forward to the opportunities provided by the new record sealing laws effective July 1, 2025, taking the appropriate legal steps can help you achieve a clean slate.

Clean Slate Virginia is dedicated to assisting individuals in navigating these processes and securing their future. If you have questions or need assistance with expungement or record sealing, contact Clean Slate Virginia today to learn more about how we can help you clear your Virginia criminal record.



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