What is the difference between an expungement and an appeal?

Word Cloud With Words Related to Appeals and ExpungementsExpungements and appeals have different legal procedures and different potential outcomes. To make an educated decision about whether to pursue an expungement or appeal in your Virginia criminal case, it is important to understand both legal options and to contact an experienced Virginia criminal lawyer for help.

Expungements

If an expungement is successful, then it is as if you were never charged with a crime. All records having to do with the alleged crime are erased. You can go about your life as if you were never arrested, and potential employers and others who conduct background checks will not be able to find any record of the criminal charges you faced.

In Virginia, you may be eligible for expungement if:

  • You were acquitted
     
  • The charge was nolle prossed (dismissed) and the Commonwealth does not intend to bring the charge back within one year

If you have never been convicted of a crime and the charge you are seeking to expunge was a misdemeanor, then you may get an expungement unless the government’s attorney convinces the court that there is good cause not to grant the expungement.

If you have been previously convicted of a crime or if the charge against you was a felony, then you have to convince the court that it would be a manifest injustice to keep the charge against you from being expunged.

Appeals

You must have been convicted of a crime to pursue an appeal. You may be able to seek an appeal if:

  • Your case was heard by a general district court. In Virginia, you have the right to appeal to a circuit court if your case was decided by a general district court.
     
  • Your case was heard by a circuit court and one or more of your legal rights was violated. In this situation, you may appeal to the Virginia Court of Appeals. However, in some cases you must petition for an appeal. In other words, you must request permission that your appeal be heard; therefore, it is a process best navigated with the assistance of an attorney.

Common reasons for appeal include incorrect jury instructions, improperly admitted evidence, juror misconduct, and ineffective assistance of counsel.

On appeal, the court may decide to affirm the decision of the lower court, vacate the ruling of the lower court, or reverse the judgment of the lower court and send the case back to the lower court to be tried again.

Contact a Virginia Criminal Lawyer for Help

Expungements and appeals are different, but if you pursue either legal option, then you may benefit from the help of an experienced Fairfax criminal law attorney. Contact our lawyers today to discuss all of your legal choices.