If someone’s committed the crime of theft, they may wonder if that will stay on their record forever. That’s not a surprising question, given the effect that having a criminal record can have. This experienced Fairfax, VA criminal defense details what to expect from a theft conviction and what to know about applying for expungement.

What is Theft?

Under Virginia law, theft is known as larceny, which the courts define as the unauthorized taking of things of value with the owner’s permission and intends to keep the stolen items permanently.

There are three levels of larceny in Virginia law:

  • Petit Larceny. This is the lighter charge, a misdemeanor, and applies when the value of the theft is below $1,000. Someone convicted of petit larceny could receive a sentence of up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $2,500.
  • Grand Larceny. This is the more serious charge, a felony, and applies when the value of the theft was more significant than $1,000 or if the item of value was physically taken from a person and is worth more than $5 (so yes, what would sound like a minor theft at a convenience store could lead to grand larceny charges). Someone convicted of grand larceny could face up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $2,500.
  • Shoplifting/Concealment of Merchandise. Someone who stole items of value from a store could be charged as a felony grand larceny/concealment if the value was over $1,000 or as a misdemeanor petit larceny/concealment if the value was under $1,000.

If there is more than one conviction, the consequences can be harsher.

What are the Consequences of Theft on Your Record?

As noted above, the immediate consequences could be hefty fines, prison sentences, or both. But there are other consequences as well. All the documents around the theft crimes are put into the criminal record, which can be requested by a wide variety of people. That could make it harder to get a job or a promotion in an existing job, it could cause problems obtaining credit, and it could even make it hard for someone to apply for things like rental housing.

How Long Does a Theft Charge Stay On Your Record?

This is the unfortunate part of theft charges on someone’s criminal record: They currently remain there forever unless the person successfully applies to the court to have them expunged.

That said, a law was passed in Virginia in 2021 that will go into affect in 2025, and it will affect certain convictions. The law allows for some convictions to be sealed. That’s not a full expungement, in which the charges are fully removed from the record, but it does mean that the charges will be sealed in such a way that very few people have access to them.

With automatic sealing, petit larceny and concealment misdemeanors will be sealed if the person charged has not gotten more charges on their records and several years have passed since the charges. Felony larceny charges may be sealed too with similar terms to those for misdemeanors, along with ten years elapsing since the charges. If the felony involved drug or alcohol dependence, the person must demonstrate that they’ve successfully undergone rehabilitation.

Can You Have a Theft Charged Expunged from Your Record in Virginia?

It’s possible to have a theft charge removed from your personal record, if certain criteria are met:

  • The charged person is found not guilty in court.
  • The theft charges were dismissed either with no finding of guilt or there was not evidence sufficient to find guilt.
  • The Commonwealth of Virginia, for a number of possible reasons, doesn’t move ahead with prosecuting the case.
  • It’s possible to prove that the crime was committed by someone else who used the charged person’s identity.

What Can Prevent the Expungement from Your Record?

Unfortunately, there are some situations in which expungement isn’t an option. State law is clear about the conditions in which someone cannot seek expungement in Virginia.

  • The charged person entered a plea agreement.
  • The charged person pled no contest.
  • The charged person was convicted of larceny, credit card fraud, or another type of theft crime.

What Does It Take to Get Theft Charges Expunged in Virginia?

First someone needs to meet the criteria defined above. Once it’s established that they’re eligible, there are several steps necessary in Virginia. The process can take six months or more depending on if there are any complications that rise.

  1. The person charged must file a formal petition for expungement, which the Commonwealth has 21 days to respond to (if a response is required).
  2. Take a copy of the petition to get fingerprints. The person charged can do this at a local law enforcement office or other private fingerprinting organization.
  3. Either the person charged or the law enforcement agency will then submit the petition and the fingerprints to the Central Criminal Records Exchange, which will send them over to the court along with the documents of the charges for which expungement is requested.
  4. The court will make a ruling either in favor of expungement or against it. Usually someone with a misdemeanor theft charge can have those charges expunged. It’s more difficult for felonies, which is why it’s good to work with an attorney.
  5. If the court agrees to the expungement, they’ll send notice to the Virginia State Police, which is the organization that actually carries out the expungement. They’ll notify the charged person in writing when the expungement is complete.

There are also waiting periods involved. The person charged must have no new charges for 7 years if they’re charged with a misdemeanor, while a felony charge must wait 10 years with no additional crimes.

This Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney Will Work to Expunge Your Criminal Record

Theft can be a serious charge that could impact your life for years to come. Contact me at 703-688-9236 to set up a free case evaluation based on my extensive experience working in criminal law and record expungements.