COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT CRIMINAL CHARGES
There are many misconceptions about criminal law and criminal charges, one of which is the role that Public Defenders play. A person qualifies for a public defender or court appointed counsel by being financially unable to retain a private attorney [read, below the poverty line], then that is the attorney they obviously must have for their criminal charge. Although Public Defenders mean well and pass the same Bar Exam, unfortunately they are almost always overworked and underpaid – and simply don’t have the time or resources to dig deeply into any one particular case and use the same standard of due diligence that a privately retained attorney [such as myself and my law firm, NovaLegalGroup, P.C.] do. Since we truly get to know our clients and their cases very well; understand the law; and then create a customized “Plan of Action” for each of our clients; we believe this gives our clients the edge.
Know Which Criminal Charges Carry Jail-time
Other misconceptions come with not knowing which crimes are jailable offenses [such as not knowing that you face one year in jail for Reckless Driving, or 30 days in jail for Possession of Marijuana]; or in thinking that when you just pay a fine that you don’t have a criminal record. Most people don’t seem to understand what a criminal record is. Almost all of our moms and dads, when we were growing up, always told us to not get into trouble or we might get a “Permanent Criminal Record”, but, sorry to tell you, mom and dad simply didn’t exactly know what a Permanent Criminal Record meant. But, even though they didn’t know what a Permanent Criminal Record was, mom and dad were right.
Permanent Criminal Record: Who keeps it and where?
So, what is a Permanent Criminal Record? “Where is your Permanent Criminal Record kept? Who keeps it? etc. Your Permanent Criminal Record is stored with the “National Crime Information Center” [NCIC]. The NCIC is the FBI, Homeland Security, Immigration and CIA database. The NCIC is maintained forever and includes all criminal convictions, nationwide, including Virginia. As noted, it is only possible to expunge or delete a criminal charge or arrest [but never a conviction] in Virginia if your original criminal charge was dismissed with no terms and conditions attached to the dismissal.
The process for an “Expungement” involves filing a “Petition For Expungement” with the local Circuit Court where you live. There are a significant number of steps that you must negotiate through to be able to obtain an – Expungement, and this process includes not only many difficult steps but also includes a significant amount of time. It usually takes approximately 4-6 months for the process of a “Petition For Expungement” to be concluded. But, the time, the patience and the cost involved is well worth it so that you have absolutely no permanent criminal Record whatsoever.