A felony has a big impact on a person’s life and if you live in Virginia, you’ve come here trying to find out how to get the felony off your record. Realize that with all felony records, there are three options you can take. 1) Expunge Your Record 2) Seal Your Record 3) Request a Pardon of Your Record. The problem though is that all states don’t offer all three of these options. But before we get into what Virginia offers, let’s review what each of these options actually mean.
If you get your record expunged in Virginia it’s as if your arrest and/or charges never happened. Your record is completely destroyed, including all physical and public records. When asked if have a criminal record, after expungement, you can truthfully answer “no”.
Sealing your record in Virginia is similar to expungement, but your record still exists in a limited form. The public does not have access to your record, but there are some exceptions. Your records can still be accessed by law enforcement and the courts. Record sealing is not as secure as expungement, but it is a reasonable alternative that is comparatively easier to obtain if your state offers it.
If you receive a pardon in Virginia, you still have record of your arrest or charge, but your guilt is exonerated. That is, you have proven that you are rehabilitated and forgiven for your crimes. You can also get relief in terms of having various rights restored, such as your right to vote. The requirements for pardons vary between states, but typically there is a lot of documentation required, and includes lengthy waiting periods to apply and receive a pardon.
Things to Know Before You Start
First: It’s important to understand that every state is different in terms of what methods are available for felons to remove their record and the information below will help you understand what you can do in Virginia.
Felony Expungement in Virginia
Yes, it is possible to expunge your felony in Virginia but it is very rare.
Sealing a Record in Virginia
Yes, it is possible to seal your record in Virginia but it depends on the felony.
Getting a Pardon in Virginia
Yes, it is possible to get a pardon of your record in Virginia but it depends on the felony.
Second: When trying to clear your record, you really have two options. The first is to get a free consultation from a lawyer to see what they think of your case, and the second is to try to do all of the paperwork yourself.
Third: We HIGHLY recommend that you get a free consultation from a lawyer prior to taking any action. We say this because whether you want to expunge, seal, or pardon your record, it’s an extremely complicated process. Failure to follow the process properly can end up with you being denied for the request and having to wait additional time (sometimes several years) before you can file again. In addition, getting an expungement lawyer can increase your odds of succeeding and sometimes it’s more affordable than you think. The first step is to click on the button below to confirm that you’re eligible for the expungement/sealing off your record.
Can You Expunge a Felony in Virginia?
Unfortunately, you can only expunge your record in Virginia if the case was dismissed after a trial, the charge was nolle prosequi’d (withdrawn) or the charge was deferred and ultimately dismissed without a finding of guilty or facts sufficient to support a finding of guilt.
Can You Seal Your Criminal Record in Virginia?
You are only seal your criminal records if you were found innocent.
Except for juvenile records, you cannot get a conviction sealed. If your conviction was later overturned, you may petition for expungement if you first receive an absolute pardon.
How to Seal Your Criminal Record in Virginia
• Before you begin this process, we insist that you take this eligibility test to determine if you’re eligible to seal your record.
• If you are eligible, you should talk to the lawyer that we refer you to so that you get an idea of the price for their services (it’s likely cheaper than you think because expungements are mostly paperwork) and see what other helpful information they can give you.
• If you are not eligible to seal your record based on our test, then you should stop here.
• If you are eligible to seal your record based on our test and want to do this without a lawyer, continue reading.
• You must file a petition with the court in the city or county where you case was handled. You will need one copy of the petition for the attorney for the Commonwealth of the same city or county you were charged.
• You will need another copy of the petition for the law enforcement agency
• You must also get a full set of your fingerprints taken at the agency
• You must request that the agency send the petition and the copy of your fingerprints to the Central Criminal Records Exchange
• They will send a copy of your criminal record, your fingerprints, and your petition to the court for expungement.
• Once the court has all the information it needs, it will hold a hearing to determine if keeping the records creates a “manifest injustice” to you.
• If yes, it will grant your request.
Can You Apply for a Pardon in Virginia?
There are three types of pardons that you can apply for in Virginia:
- A simple pardon.
- A conditional pardon.
- An absolute pardon.
A simple pardon is an official statement of forgiveness. It does not seal, erase, or expunge your conviction from your criminal record.
A conditional pardon is available only to a person who is currently incarcerated. It is primarily used by an inmate who wants to be released from prison early (in this sense, it is similar to parole).
An absolute pardon is the most difficult type of pardon to get. This pardon is based on the idea that you were innocent of the crime and were wrongfully convicted of.
An absolute pardon is the only type of pardon that would allow you to have your conviction expunged from your criminal record. You essentially must have pled not guilty throughout your trial, even if you were convicted.
CANNOT PARDON IF…
Out-of-state Conviction – You can only apply for a pardon for the Commonwealth of Virginia
How to Apply for a Pardon in Virginia
All pardons will be processed by the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office. You can visit the website here. Direct all questions to: Pardons staff Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth Post Office Box 2454 Richmond, Virginia 23218-2454 (804)692-2542 [email protected]
• Before you begin this process, we insist that you take this eligibility test to determine if you’re eligible to request a pardon for your record. In most cases, if you are eligible for expungement on our test, then you’ll be eligible for a pardon.
• If you are eligible, you should talk to the lawyer that we refer you to so that you get an idea of the price for their services (it’s likely cheaper than you think because requesting a pardon is mostly paperwork) and see what other helpful information they can give you.
• If you are not eligible based on our test, then you should stop here.
• If you are eligible based on our test and want to do this without a lawyer, continue reading.
• Here is a link to the specific forms to fill out. It includes a step-by-step process to fill it out.Steps to apply for a pardon in Virginia Simple Pardon
Step 1. Fill out the appropriate form for the type of pardon you are applying for.
• Include your criminal records.
Step 2. We suggest that you submit a detailed and genuine personal statement detailing your reasons for requesting a pardon.
Step 3. We also suggest that you submit a few letters of recommendation from credible people (such as your boss) who know you well and can say good things about you.
Step 4. If you would like to apply for a conditional pardon, and you are an inmate at a prison facility, you, your family member, or your attorney must fill out the appropriate form.
• Remember the standard for getting a conditional pardon is that you must show “substantial evidence of extraordinary circumstances.”
Step 5. You should also list any positive things that you have done while in prison.
• Provide any other relevant information that you wish to be considered in your application.
• We suggest that you submit, on a separate sheet of paper, a detailed and genuine personal statement explaining why you need a pardon.
• In writing your personal statement, keep in mind that the Board/Governor will not be retrying you for the offense.
• Although you may feel the need to explain the facts of the crime from your perspective, avoid trying to make excessive excuses for your crime and arguing away your guilt.
• However you feel about the crime, you have already been found guilty.
• The Board/Governor is probably more interested in seeing your remorse for the crime, and your understanding of its effects on the victim and society, than anything else.
• If your reason for applying is to avoid deportation (yes, you can be placed in deportation proceedings even while you are being incarcerated), explain to the Governor how being separated from your family would be devastating for both you and them. Submit a copy of your Notice to Appear or other immigration documents and remind the Governor the emergency of the situation.
Step 6. If possible, have credible people in your community (such as former teach or boss) or even a fellow prison inmate write letters of recommendation for you.
• These letters should indicate to what extent the writer knows you and why he or she thinks you should be granted a pardon.
• The letters should also indicate the writer’s contact information for verification purposes.Absolute Pardon
• Remember, getting an absolute pardon is very difficult—perhaps the most difficult of the three types.
• You must have been innocent of the crime of which you were unjustly convicted.
• Furthermore, you must have pleaded “not guilty” throughout the case, and you must have exhausted all of your judicial alternatives and other remedies (including asking the court for a Writ of Actual Innocence).
Step 1. Write your letter to the Governor to seek your absolute pardon.
• You must include your criminal record.
Step 2. Gather as much evidence proving your innocence as possible to submit to the Governor.
Step 3. The Governor will simply have the Parole Board review your application, conduct an investigation, and then make a recommendation to him.
• If the Governor denies your application, you can reapply two years later after the denial.
So, there you have it. Three separate ways to get rid of your record in Virginia. As we’ve said numerous times throughout this page, this is a really complicated process and we highly recommend that you take this eligibility test prior to taking any action to determine if you are eligible for any of these options.
Please note, the information contained here is not legal advice and is strictly informational. If you have any further questions about the information above, or in general, you need to contact a lawyer directly.