Expunging or Sealing Adult Criminal Records in West Virginia

In West Virginia, your criminal record may be expunged -- that is, erased or sealed -- under certain circumstances.

In West Virginia, your criminal record may be expunged—that is, erased or sealed—under the circumstances described below. If your record is expunged, it will no longer be visible to the general public, including potential employers. In most cases, you may say that you were never arrested or convicted of a crime. (W. Va. Code § 61-11-26 (2020).)

Expungement in West Virginia if You Were Not Convicted of a Crime

Your criminal record may be eligible for expungement if:

  • all charges against you were dismissed, or
  • you were found not guilty of the charges against you.

Your criminal record will not qualify for expungement if any of the following are true:

  • the charge you wish to expunge is for driving under the influence
  • there is a felony conviction on your record
  • the charges against you were dismissed in exchange for a guilty plea to another offense, or
  • you were found not guilty because of mental illness, mental handicap, or addiction.

Before applying for expungement, you must wait 60 days from the date of the order of acquittal or dismissal. (W. Va. Code § 61-11-25 (2020).)

Expungement in West Virginia if You Were Convicted of a Crime

Convictions for many first-time drug possession offenses, misdemeanors, and nonviolent felonies may be expunged. With some exceptions, sealed records cannot be disclosed to anyone without a court order. Some convictions, however, are ineligible for expungement, as described below.

First-Time Drug Possession Offenses

Your criminal record for a first-time drug possession offense may qualify for expungement if you have successfully completed a deferred sentence and your case was discharged or dismissed. You may apply six months after your term of probation ends, and you must have no serious or repeated probation violations. (W. Va. Code § 60A-4-407 (2020).)

Misdemeanors and Nonviolent Felonies

In general, your criminal record may qualify for expungement after the following waiting periods:

  • One misdemeanor: To be eligible for expungement, you must wait one year from the date of your conviction, completion of your sentence, or release from supervision, whichever is latest.
  • Multiple misdemeanors: For your record to qualify for expungement, you must wait two years from the date of your last conviction, completion of your sentence, or release from supervision, whichever is latest.
  • Nonviolent felonies: In order to apply for expungement, you must wait five years from the date of your last conviction, completion of your sentence, or release from supervision, whichever is latest.

The waiting period is reduced to 90 days for one misdemeanor, one year for multiple misdemeanors, or three years for nonviolent felonies, if:

  • you have a medically documented history of substance abuse and successfully complete a substance abuse treatment program approved by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources
  • you graduate from a West Virginia Department of Education-approved Job Readiness Adult Training course, or
  • both.

There are, however, many offenses that do not qualify for expungement, including:

  • crimes involving violence
  • sexual offenses
  • offenses involving the use or exhibition of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument
  • domestic violence offenses
  • stalking or harassment
  • abuse or neglect of an incapacitated adult
  • animal cruelty offenses
  • convictions for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and
  • convictions for traffic offenses committed while you were the holder of a commercial driver’s license or operating a commercial motor vehicle.

See W. Va. Code §§ 61-11-26 and 61-11-26b for the full list of crimes that are ineligible for expungement. (W. Va. Code §§ 61-11-26, 61-11-26a, 61-11-26b (2020).)

Expungement in West Virginia if You Were Pardoned

If you receive a full and unconditional executive pardon, your criminal record may be eligible for expungement. Before applying, you must wait one year from the date of your pardon and five years from the date you completed your sentence. Your record will not be eligible if the offense was first-degree murder, kidnapping, treason, or a felony sex offense. (W. Va. Code § 5-1-16a (2020).)

How to File for Expungement in West Virginia

You must file your petition for expungement in the circuit court in the county where your case was handled. You can find expungement forms and instructions on the West Virginia Judiciary website.

Getting Legal Help

Cleaning up a criminal history can be complicated, and the law can change at any time. If you are not sure whether your record qualifies for expungement in West Virginia—or for advice about your personal situation—you should contact a qualified criminal law attorney. A good lawyer can guide you each step of the way.

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