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Legislators Find Compromise On Old Criminal Records

Lawmakers are ending the General Assembly session with a major compromise on expungement.

Right now, people who have an old conviction for marijuana possession or disorderly conduct or even speeding have no way to clean the slate. For more than a year, House Democrats and Senate Democrats have been trying to figure out how many of those old convictions should be automatically expunged and how many of them should require going to court and getting a judge to seal the record.

House Majority Leader Charniele Herring led the fight for automatic expungement, and now she's reached a deal with the other side.  "This bill combines both bills to come up with a process or a clean slate for Virginians as the Virginia Clean Slate Act."

Some charges will be automatically expunged like fake ID, disorderly conduct or marijuana possession. Other charges will require a trip to court and probably hiring a lawyer to seal the record for things like resisting arrest or possession of crack cocaine.

Senator Scott Surovell is a Democrat from Fairfax County who led the fight for the petition model.  "You have to go in front of a judge and a commonwealth's attorney and you have to show you've led a good life and you've changed and if you were addicted to drugs you're not addicted any more and if you're an alcoholic you've gotten counseling and you're through all that."

The bill lawmakers are sending the governor does not include DUI or domestic violence. Those will remain on the record with no way to expunge the conviction. 

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

David Seidel is Radio IQ's News Director.