Comprehensive and Informative Commentary on State and Federal Legal Matters
As was reported in this week’s edition of the Virginia Lawyer’s Weekly, Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Lorranie Nordlund found that a defendant who pleaded guilty to a reduced traffic charge could have the more serious criminal charge expunged. This ruling sets a new precedent with respect to expungement by adopting a broader interpretation of Virginia Code § 19.2-392.2, which governs such actions, than courts have been willing to do in the past.
According to the statue, an individual can have their criminal and/or police records expunged if they are acquitted of a crime, if a nolle prosequi it taken, or if the charge is “otherwise dismissed.” Applying this statue to a case where the defendant was charged with reckless driving (a criminal misdemeanor) but plead guilty to an amended charge of improper driving (a traffic offense), Judge Nordlund found that the reckless driving charge had been “otherwise dismissed” and was, therefore, able to be expunged.
While it may seem insignificant to some, Judge Nordlund’s decision could prove influential in that it opens the door for untold numbers of Virginians who have previously not sought expungement to now do so. With this case, Judge Nordlund has laid the foundation for the same argument to be made in any case in which a defendant pleads guilty to a charge that is not a lesser included offense of what they were originally charged with.
As an example, consider a scenario in which a person is charged with reckless driving, but then takes advantage of a plea bargain and pleads guilty to improper driving. In this case, since improper driving is not a less included offense of reckless driving, the argument could be made that they are entitled to an expungement of their record.
If you or someone you know has a charge on their criminal record that they would like expunged, please feel free to contact Westlake Legal Group to discuss the various options available.