Virginia Record Sealing & Expungement Blog

How to use Virginia’s deferred disposition statute to expunge your pending charge

Last updated: April 22, 2024

Virginia courthouse Deferred Disposition serves as a valuable legal option in Virginia, under Virginia Code Section 19.2-298.02. This provision offers those charged with criminal offenses an opportunity to avoid a conviction by fulfilling specified conditions set forth by the court. Understanding this process is crucial for those navigating the criminal justice system in Virginia.


What is Deferred Disposition?

Deferred Disposition is a legal arrangement under Virginia Code Section 19.2-298.02 that allows individuals charged with a criminal offense to complete specific requirements in exchange for having their case dismissed, charges dropped or amended to a lesser offense. It is a proactive approach aimed at rehabilitation rather than punishment.


Understanding Code Section 19.2-298.02

In Virginia, Code Section 19.2-298.02 authorizes deferred disposition or deferred adjudication. An agreement must be reached with the prosecutor for a charge to be deferred and dismissed. It is crucial to negotiate this resolution prior to the court date. Each jurisdiction and prosecutor in Virginia handle these cases differently. Each case is determined on an individual basis of fact, law and the person’s criminal history.

What it Entails

Code Section 19.2-298.02 stipulates the terms and conditions that individuals must adhere to when seeking deferred disposition. These conditions typically include community service, completion of counseling or educational programs, and compliance with any other requirements deemed necessary by the court.

How it Differs from Other Options

Deferred disposition differs from traditional court proceedings or plea agreements in that it offers individuals an opportunity to avoid conviction altogether or have a charge amended to a lesser charge. Instead of facing the consequences of a guilty verdict, participants in deferred disposition programs have the chance to demonstrate accountability and rehabilitation.


illustration of man in business suit being held back by white tape Eligibility Criteria for Deferred Disposition

Virginia Code Section 19.2–298.02 does not set any specific eligibility criteria within the statute. So, theoretically any charge and any criminal defendant is eligible to take advantage of the statute. The challenge in these cases is to have the prosecutor agree to a deferred disposition resolution. Clean Slate Virginia advocates for deferred disposition on a regular basis. Furthermore, Clean Slate Virginia always advocates for expungement for every client in every case (more on that below).

Factors Considered

Prosecutors consider various factors when determining eligibility for deferred disposition, including the severity of the offense, the individual’s criminal history, and their willingness to comply with the terms of the program. Each case is evaluated on its merits, and decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

Who Qualifies

While eligibility for deferred disposition is not guaranteed, individuals who demonstrate a genuine commitment to rehabilitation and compliance with the court requirements are more likely to be successful. Factors such as remorse, cooperation with law enforcement, and efforts to make amends may also weigh in favor of eligibility.


Dismissal Versus Expungement: Key Differences

Understanding the distinction between these terms is crucial:

If someone successfully completes all requirements of the Court under a case that is deferred and dismissed, the charge is dismissed; however, the charge remains on the person’s record and within public view and the charge cannot be expunged under Virginia Code Section 19.2-392.2.

This is generally the case; however, Section (D) of Virginia Code Section19.2-298.02 allows expungement of the charge after dismissal, provided the prosecutor agrees.

The Clean Slate Virginia way is to advocate for expungement in every possible case for every client! Clean Slate Virginia uses existing Virginia laws in a way that is not common practice across the Commonwealth. It is time to use the existing Virginia laws to your advantage!


The Process of Obtaining a Deferred Disposition

Securing a deferred disposition involves a structured legal process, wherein the defendant, legal counsel, and the prosecutor reach an agreement conducive to rehabilitation. The process typically unfolds as follows:

  1. Plea Agreement

The defendant enters into a plea agreement with the prosecution, wherein they admit to the allegations in exchange for a deferred disposition. This agreement outlines the terms and conditions that the defendant must adhere to during the deferral period.

  1. Court Approval

The plea agreement is presented to the court for approval. The judge reviews the terms and may accept or reject the proposed deferred disposition based on factors such as the severity of the offense, the defendant’s criminal history, and the recommendation of the prosecution.

  1. Fulfillment of Conditions

Upon acceptance of the deferred disposition, the defendant must diligently fulfill the conditions specified by the court. These conditions are designed to promote rehabilitation, deter future criminal behavior, and address the underlying issues contributing to the offense.

  1. Completion Review

Once the defendant successfully completes the conditions of the deferred disposition, the court reviews their compliance. If the terms have been met satisfactorily, the court may dismiss the charge, resulting in the avoidance of a formal conviction.


Benefits of Deferred Dispositions

Deferred dispositions offer several benefits to defendants, communities, and the criminal justice system as a whole:

  • Second Chance: Deferred dispositions afford individuals the opportunity to demonstrate remorse, take responsibility for their actions and pursue positive change without bearing the lifelong stigma of a criminal conviction.
  • Rehabilitation: By focusing on rehabilitative measures rather than punitive sanctions, deferred dispositions encourage personal growth, accountability, and successful reintegration into society.
  • Community Safety: By addressing the root causes of criminal behavior and promoting rehabilitation, deferred dispositions contribute to enhanced public safety and reduced recidivism rates.
  • Judicial Efficiency: Deferred dispositions alleviate strain on the judicial system by diverting non-violent offenders away from traditional court proceedings, thereby conserving resources and expediting case resolution.

Court Proceedings and Deferred Dispositionhappy African American man looking at a piece of paper next to a laptop.

Court proceedings related to deferred disposition are conducted in accordance with the provisions of Code Section 19.2-298.02 and may vary depending on the jurisdiction and specific circumstances of the case. Judges have discretion in determining whether to grant deferred disposition and may consider various factors in making their decision.

Common Misconceptions About Deferred Disposition

Despite its benefits, deferred disposition is sometimes misunderstood or misrepresented. Dispelling common misconceptions can help you make informed decisions about their legal options and navigate the process more effectively. It is crucial to understand the significance and difference between a conviction, dismissal, and expungement.

Myths vs. Reality

One common misconception about deferred disposition is that it is a “get out of jail free” card that allows individuals to avoid accountability for their actions. In reality, deferred disposition requires individuals to take responsibility for their behavior and actively participate in rehabilitation efforts.

Another myth is that every charge that is dismissed can be expunged. As discussed above, for a charge to be expunged, the prosecutor must agree and that agreement must be noted in the final order, pursuant to Virginia code, section 19.2–298.02(D).

Another misconception is that deferred disposition is only available to certain individuals or for specific types of offenses. In truth, deferred disposition may be an option for a wide range of offenses, depending on the circumstances of the case and the individual’s criminal history, among other things.


Frequently Asked Questions:

Is a Deferred Disposition a Conviction?

Charges treated under Virginia Code Section 19.298.02, Virginia’s deferred disposition statute, allow for dismissal, amendment to charges and conviction. The differences depend on the individual agreement in each case. A case that is ultimately dismissed, would reflect as being dismissed on their criminal background. However, if the person is not successful in complying with the terms of the agreement, the person would ultimately be convicted of the offense. In some cases, after successful completion of the terms of the agreement, a charge is amended to a lesser offense.

Is Deferred the same as Dismissed?

No. A charge that is deferred may untimely be dismissed; however, while the case is pending it is not dismissed. Upon the successful completion of all the terms of the deferral, the charge may be dismissed.

If a Case is Dismissed, is it Still on Your Record in Virginia?

In Virginia, cases that are dismissed stay on your criminal record. Your record will reflect that you were charged and then the case was dismissed. Under federal law, the dismissal will show up on your background check for seven years. This fact underscores the importance of expungement.

What Happens If I Fail to Meet the Requirements of Deferred Disposition?

Failing to meet the requirements of deferred disposition can have serious consequences, including potential conviction and legal repercussions. It is crucial to take the obligations seriously and fulfill them to the best of your ability to avoid negative outcomes.

How Long Does Deferred Disposition Last?

The length of a deferred disposition case varies from case to case. The terms of every deferred disposition is determined between the prosecutor and the defendant. Generally, cases are continued and deferred between six months and a year.

Can I Expunge My Record After Completing Deferred Disposition?

Under Virginia Code Section 19.2-298.02(D), if the prosecutor agrees, once the charge is dismissed, it can be expunged provided the agreement is noted in the final order. Expungement is a separate civil proceeding that must be completed in the Circuit Court of the jurisdiction for the criminal charge.

Clean Slate Virginia uses existing Virginia laws in a way that is not common practice across the Commonwealth. The Clean Slate Virginia way is to advocate for expungement in every possible case for every client!

If you currently have a pending charge that you would like dismissed and expunged, contact Clean Slate Virginia today so we can discuss you case and an individual plan to Erase Your Record!



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