Vacating Misdemeanor & Felony Convictions
A brief intro to vacating convictions, popularly known as 'record expungement.' Some forms are available online, but I always recommend hiring an attorney.
Misdemeanors & FeloniesVacating Misdemeanors. RCW 9.96.060 authorizes a sentencing court to vacate a conviction for a misdemeanor or a gross misdemeanor if: The offender has completed all the terms of his or her sentence and more than three years have passed since completion; No criminal charges are pending against the offender and he or she has not been convicted of a new crime in state or federal court; The offender has not had the record of another conviction vacated; and The offender has not been restrained within the last five years by a domestic violence protection order, a no-contact order, an anti-harassment order, or a civil restraining order. In addition, the offense must not be: A violent offense, as defined in RCW 9.94A.030, or an attempt to commit a violent offense; A violation of RCW 46.61.502 (driving under the influence), 46.61.504 (physical control of a vehicle while under the influence), or 9.91.20 (operating a railroad, steamboat, or vehicle while intoxicated); A violation, including attempt, of chapter 9.68 RCW (obscenity and pornography), chapter 9.68A RCW (sexual exploitation of children), or chapter 9A.44 RCW (sex offenses); or An offense involving domestic violence in some circumstances. Forms to request that a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor conviction be vacated may be obtained from the courts, online at http://www.courts.wa.gov/forms/, or from the Administrative Office of the Courts at (360) 705-5328. Vacating Felonies. RCW 9.94A.640 provides for vacating some felony convictions. An offender who has been discharged may request, by motion, that the sentencing court vacate the conviction. But the record of conviction may not be cleared if: Criminal charges are pending against the offender in state or federal court; The conviction was for a violent offense as defined in RCW 9.94A.030 or a crime against persons as defined in RCW 43.43.830; The offender has been convicted of a new crime in state or federal court since discharge; The offense is a class B felony and less than ten years have passed since discharge; The offense is a class C felony described in RCW 46.61.502(6) or 46.61.504(6) and less than ten years have passed since discharge, or the offense is any other class C felony and less than five years have passed since discharge. No forms are available to request that felony convictions be vacated. Effect of Vacating Conviction. An offender whose conviction has been vacated may state for all purposes that he or she has not been convicted of that crime. When a conviction is vacated, however, the court file is not destroyed. The conviction may be used in a later criminal prosecution.
Sealing and DestroyingMany people ask me about this option when the charges were dismissed. There are some current cases under review that may make it easier to get an arrest of your record, rather than waiting the requisite two years, and I am just beginning to file motions on this issue. Basically, the internet age makes so much more public than we want, and even a false arrest can show up. Under General Rule 15, sealing a court record may be ordered when a conviction has been vacated or when the court finds that compelling privacy or safety concerns outweigh the public interest in access to the record. Current law does not allow for destroying the court record of a criminal action against an adult that results in a conviction or adverse finding.