How to Expunge my Public Records in Virginia

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The Library of Virginia regulates the deletion or destruction of all records in the State. Any agency in the state that requires records to be deleted must first fill and submit the Certificate of Record Destruction (RM-3 Form) to the Library of Virginia.

Public records in the State of Virginia typically contain privacy protected information about citizens of the State. Per the Virginia Public Records Act Section 42.1-86.1, no agency is permitted to destroy a public record except in the following situations:

  • The record appears on a records retention and disposition schedule and the retention period has expired.
  • A certificate of records destruction has been approved by the records officer in the agency.
  • There are no pending litigations, investigations, audits, or requests for the record.

Normal citizens seeking to have their public records deleted in the State of Virginia can do so by filing a petition to the District Court where the case originated from. Petitioners will be required to state tangible statutory reasons why they want their records to be deleted. Note that it is technically impossible to have public records deleted, the courts only permit certain Virginia State Records to be sealed or expunged outside their retention periods. Expungement in the State of Virginia is a process involving the removal of public records from public view, thereby restricting access to the records. Some of the major reasons why individuals may want their records to be deleted or made unavailable to the public include:

  • The record contains private and personal data
  • The record contains information that is damaging to the individual's reputation
  • For security reasons
  • Release of the records may cause financial harm to the individual
  • To have their right restored.

Public records in the State of Virginia typically contain privacy-protected information about citizens of the State. In compliance with the Virginia Public Records Act Section 42.1-86.1, the destruction of these types of public records by the Library of Virginia must be done not later than 6 months after the expiration of the retention period. However, the destruction of public records that do not contain privacy-protected information can be done within a time frame of one year after the expiration of the record’s retention period.

What is a Public Record in Virginia?

Per the Virginia State Public Records Act Section 42.1-77 a public record is any recorded information documenting a transaction or activity by, or with any government agency, public officer, or employee of a government agency. Public records are available at county and state repositories as well as through Non-FCRA Compliant background check companies.

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act further defines public records as all documented information, regardless of storage media and physical characteristics, that is prepared, owned by, or in the possession of a public body, its officers, employees, or agents in the transaction of a public business. This act grants any citizen of the State of Virginia access to all public records and meetings of public bodies in which public business is conducted unless such record or meeting is statutorily restricted.

Some of the benefits of granting citizens access to public records are:

  • It ensures transparency and accountability in government.
  • It allows citizens to monitor the impact of government laws and policies, thereby ensuring that they are properly enforced.
  • It improves the efficiency and effectiveness of government agencies.

Virginia public records can be classified into several broad categories. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Criminal justice records
  • Vital records
  • Evaluation reports
  • Laws and regulations
  • Court records
  • Financial records
  • Government-issued licenses

However, some public records in the State of Virginia contain personal, critical, or damaging information about citizens of the State that they would rather like to keep private. To keep such information private or to completely remove the information from public view, the individuals have to go through record custodians to have these records sealed or expunged. It should be noted that before any request to seal or expunge a record can be granted, the individual or the records in question must meet certain criteria as laid out by the Virginia Code Section

Does Virginia Allow Expungement?

Yes, the State of Virginia allows the expungement of Virginia criminal and arrest records. Expungement typically refers to the deletion or destruction of a record. However, the State of Virginia does not permanently destroy an expunged record, instead, it restricts access to the record by removing and sealing it.

According to the Virginia Code Section 19.2.392.2, a person charged with a crime may have such records expunged when any of the following happens:

  • The person has been acquitted of the crime
  • The charges against the person have been dismissed
  • The person has received an absolute pardon for the crime.

Note that individuals that have their criminal records and arrest records expunged are legally permitted to deny the existence of such records in the State of Virginia.

How Do I Expunge My Criminal Record in Virginia

To expunge criminal records in the State of Virginia, interested parties must meet the criteria that qualify them to have their criminal or arrest records expunged. Per the Virginia Code Section19.2.392.2, records can be expunged in the following situations:

  • Where the interested party has been acquitted of a crime
  • Where the charges filed against the interested party have been withdrawn
  • Where there has been a proven case of mistaken identity
  • Where the charges filed against the interested party have been dismissed
  • Where the interested party has been given an absolute pardon

Once it is established that an individual is eligible to have their record expunged, the individual is required to obtain certified copies of the case disposition or the arrest warrants from the relevant clerk's office. Note that a copy of each charge or case to be expunged must be obtained. After this has been done, the individual will be required to prepare a petition containing the following details:

  • The individual’s full name at the time of the arrest
  • The date of the arrest
  • The arresting agency
  • The specific criminal charge sought to be expunged
  • The date of the final disposition of the charge
  • Date of birth
  • Warrant of arrest
  • Proof of innocence
  • A statement indicating why records should be expunged
  • The individual’s social security number
  • The case number for each case or charge sought to be expunged

Copies of the completed petition along with all necessary attachments should be filed in the Circuit Court in the county where the case was filed. This filing should be accompanied by the payment of an $84 filing fee and a $12 service fee. Indigent persons may request that these fees be waived by completing and submitting a Petition for Proceeding in Civil Case Without Payment of Fees or Cost (Form CC-1414). If the waiver is granted, the Court Clerk is mandated to refund all costs associated with the filing.

Thereafter, the Court Clerk’s Office will prepare a summons that will be served with the petition. The petition and summons are then sent to the Sheriff’s Office. This office is responsible for serving the summons to the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office and filing a return of service with the court. The petitioner is also permitted to send any other supporting documents by fax, mail, or hand delivery to the Commonwealth Attorney's Office. Note that the original copies of all documents are to be submitted to the court. After this is done, the petitioner is required to take a copy of the petition to a local police station or the Virginia State Police and request a criminal history report. This request can also be made online or by sending a written application to:

Virginia State Police

Criminal Records Exchange

P.O.Box 85076

Richmond, VA 23261-5076

Upon the receipt of the criminal history report by the court, a hearing will be scheduled. The petitioner will need to appear at the court hearing with evidence and an explanation of why the records are to be expunged. If the expungement is granted, requesters are advised to get a copy of the court order for records purposes.

Will My Expungement Record Show up on a Background Check in Virginia?

Once a record has been expunged in the State of Virginia, it will not show up on a background check. A background check is a process that verifies the identity and criminal history of an individual. Background checks are generally used to verify the authenticity of any information provided by a citizen of the State of Virginia. Some of the most common types of background checks include employment background checks, criminal background checks, universal background checks, fingerprint background checks, and credit background checks.

Criminal History background check records are obtained from the Virginia State Police. A criminal history background check will only provide details of convictions. Its dissemination is guided by the Virginia State Code Section 19.2.389 and 22:40-191-20. For details of arrest and charge records requesters will need a fingerprint card to accompany either the criminal history record check (sp-167) or the criminal history record check (sp-230). The SP-230 form is however restricted to only authorized agencies and it does not require the notarization of the signatures. On the other hand, the SP-167 form is available to individuals, private companies, and the general public, and this form requires notarized signatures before it can be submitted.

Note that it is prohibited to disseminate juvenile record information except under the provisions of the Virginia Code Section 19.2-389.1.

How to Seal a Record in Virginia

In the State of Virginia, individuals requesting for their records to be sealed need to petition the courts where these records originate from. They are required to establish a compelling reason why such records should be sealed and if this petition is granted, the court will issue an order requesting that the records in question be sealed.

In general, the State of Virginia will only seal documents if it determines that the interest of the individual requesting for the documents to be sealed outweighs the public's right to access the documents. For criminal cases, this usually happens under certain conditions, which include:

  • If the records may interfere with ongoing investigations
  • To maintain the privacy of a juvenile
  • To protect the identity of a witness
  • To protect the identity of sexual assault victims

Who Can See My Sealed Record in Virginia?

Sealed records in the State of Virginia can only be accessed by law enforcement agencies and the state courts. Third parties that wish to view sealed records will need to petition the courts to have sealed records unsealed before they can access them.

How to Delete Bankruptcy Records in Virginia

Legitimate bankruptcy records in the State of Virginia can only be deleted 10 years after the bankruptcy was filed per the Fair Credit Reporting Act. However, if an individual detects any error while reporting for bankruptcy, they can have their bankruptcy records deleted sooner. If an error is identified, the individual will need to send a dispute letter asking that the error be corrected and the bankruptcy record be deleted.  

On some occasions, individuals can have a fake bankruptcy on their credit report. In this case, they would need to contact the court with proper identification and supporting documentary evidence to request for a written statement from the court indicating that they do not have a bankruptcy on file.

What are Consumer Protection Laws in Virginia?

The Virginia Consumer Protection Laws help encourage fair dealings between customers and business owners by prohibiting certain unethical and deceptive business practices. Likewise, the Virginia State Privacy Act prohibits businesses from sharing or selling their customer details with third parties without notifying the customer. The Consumer Protection Section of the Attorney General’s Office is tasked with enforcing the consumer protection laws in the State of Virginia.

How to Delete Lien Records in Virginia

According to the Virginia Code Section 43-3 liens can only be obtained for products and services worth more than $150. Liens serve to ensure that creditors get paid what they are owed.

There are 2 ways to delete lien records in the State of Virginia, including:

  • Through the courts
  • Through payment of the debt

Per Virginia Code Section 43-68, an individual seeking to delete lien records may apply to the Circuit Court in the county or Clerk's Office where the lien was recorded to have the lien deleted. However, the individual must first provide proof that the debt has been paid or discharged. In accordance with Virginia Code Section 43-67, once the debt owed has been paid, the lien will automatically be removed. Furthermore, if the maturity on a lien exceeds 20 years and a lawsuit has not been brought to enforce the lien, the court will presume the debt has been paid and therefore remove the lien on the property.

The Clerk's Office is responsible for all lien searches in the State of Virginia. The State of Virginia offers both certified and uncertified copies of lien records. Requesters can obtain copies of liens by visiting the Clerk’s Information Systems (CIS) portal.

Physical copies of lien documents can be obtained in-person or by mail. However, a requester needs to forward a completed Information Request Form(UCC 11) and pay the associated fees by check or money order made payable to the State Corporation Commission.  

In-person requests are to be forwarded to:

Clerk’s Office, State Corporation Commission

Tyler Building, 1st Floor

1300 E. Main Street

Richmond VA 23219

Mail-in requests are mailed to:

Clerk’s Office, State Corporation Commission

P.O. Box 1197

Richmond VA 23218

Note that all searches cost $7 and copies more than 25 pages cost an extra $10. Certification of searches cost an extra $6. Contact the Clerk's Office toll-free at 1-866-722-2551 or (804) 371-9733 official working hours 8:30 am-4:30 pm Mondays to Fridays.

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