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When a juvenile in Virginia is charged with a crime, two of the biggest concerns are the penalties and long-term consequences. The juvenile law system is very different from the adult law system. Of course, it is preferable to have a juvenile acquitted of the charges. If, however, there is a finding of guilty it is possible that a juvenile will have his or her records expunged after a certain period has passed and conditions are met. Knowing the legal requirements for this is important when charged with a crime or after there has been a conviction.

Each January 2 or on a specific date that the court designates, records of juveniles will be destroyed. This includes files, papers and electronic records. This happens once the juvenile has reached the age of 19 and it has been five years since the date of the last hearing. If, however, the offense was such that the clerk of the court is required to provide an abstract to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, the record will not be destroyed until the individual reaches the age of 29. If the criminal acts would have been considered felonies had they been committed by an adult, then the records will not be destroyed.

If a juvenile has committed an ancillary act during a crime that would have been a felony if it was an adult or the act was such that an abstract had to be provided to the DMV, the records of this act will be retained for an amount of time that is required based on the felony or the offense that was reported to the DMV. With a traffic issue in which the juvenile has been found not guilty or had the charges dismissed, it is possible to file a motion to request that the records be destroyed. There must be good cause to reject this request.

Once the records have been destroyed, it will be as if the criminal act never happened. If ever there is another encounter with law enforcement or the court, the individual can state that there is no criminal record. When a person is charged with a juvenile criminal offense, it is important to formulate a strong defense or do whatever is possible to have the records expunged. Those facing juvenile crimes need to discuss their case with a legal professional as soon as possible.

Source: law.lis.virginia.gov, "16.1-306. Expungement of court records.," accessed on Oct. 18, 2015

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