LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Kristy Stell Ball | Nov 24, 2010

Vacating, Sealing and/or Expunging Criminal Records

Clearing Criminal History and Records

Washington allows people who have been charged with or convicted of a crime to clear their criminal record by vacating, sealing, and/or expunging their record. There are legal requirements that an individual who would like to clear their record must meet before they can vacate, seal, and/or expunge their record.

VACATING CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS

Petitioning the court to vacate a conviction allows you to withdraw your guilty plea and enter a plea of not guilty. If you have satisfied the legal requirements, the court should set aside the guilty finding, enter a finding of not guilty, and dismiss the charges against you. Once the court vacates your record of conviction you will be released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense and you will be able to tell any person for any reason that you were not convicted of that crime. This includes responding to questions on employment or housing applications.

If we successfully vacate your conviction, our office will send notification to the Washington State Patrol criminal history and identification section and to the arresting police agency. The Washington State Patrol and the arresting police agency will update their records to reflect that your conviction has been vacated and they should no longer disclose information about the vacated conviction, except to other criminal justice enforcement agencies.

Remember that in some situations, convictions that may not appear eligible for vacating may be eligible because of unusual circumstances. Please contact our office to find out if you are eligible to petition the court to vacate your conviction.

We strongly recommend that you run your criminal record at the Washington State Patrol’s website for $10.00.

Vacating Felony Convictions

RCW 9.94A.640 is the State law that governs the vacating of felony convictions. If you have been convicted of a felony offense and you have received a certificate of discharge, you may be eligible to vacate your conviction. Please contact our office to find out if you are eligible to vacate your felony conviction.

You are not be eligible to petition the court to vacate your conviction if any of the following apply:

  • The offense was a class B felony and less than ten years have passed since you were issued a certificate of discharge;
  • The offense was a class C felony and less than five years have passed since you were issued a certificate of discharge;
  • You have been convicted of a new crime in this state, another state, or federal court since the date you were issued a certificate of discharge;
  • There are any criminal charges pending against you in any court of this state, another state, or in any federal court;
  • Your conviction was for a violent offense defined in RCW 9.94A.030
  • Your conviction was for a crime against persons as defined in RCW 43.43.830

Vacating Misdemeanor Convictions

RCW 9.96.060 is the State law that governs the vacating of misdemeanor convictions. If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor offense and you have completed all the terms of your sentence and paid all of your fines you may be eligible to petition the court to vacate your conviction.

You are not eligible to petition the court to vacate your conviction if any of the following apply:

  • Less than three years have passed since you completed the terms of your sentence, including any financial obligations;
  • There are any criminal charges pending against you in any court in this state, in any other state, or in any federal court;
  • You have been convicted of a new crime in this state, another state, or federal court since the date of your conviction;
  • You have ever had the record of another conviction vacated;
  • You are currently restrained or have been restrained within the last five years by a domestic violence protection order, a no-contact order, an antiharassment order, or a civil restraining order ;
  • The offense was a violent offense or an attempt to commit a violent offense (see RCW 9.94A.030);
  • The offense was driving while under the influence or actual physical control while under the influence;
  • The offense was any misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor involving obscenity, pornography, sexual exploitation of children, or any other sex offense (see RCW 9.68, 9.68A, and 9A.44);
  • If you were convicted of a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor involving domestic violence you must meet additional statutory requirements. See RCW 9.96.060 (2)(e).

EXPUNGING RECORDS

RCW 10.97.060 is the State law that governs the expungement of records.

In Washington State, expunging a record means to delete certain information from a record maintained by a criminal justice agency. The Washington State Patrol or any other arresting agency is a criminal justice agency. Criminal record information which consist of only “nonconviction" data can be expunged or deleted either two years after the date the case is dismissed or three years from the date of arrest. When our office is hired to expunge a record, we request that the Washington State Patrol and the arresting agency delete their records.

The criminal justice agency may refuse to delete the record if any of the following apply:

  • The disposition was a deferred prosecution or similar diversion;
  • If the subject of the record has had a prior conviction for a felony or gross misdemeanor;
  • If the subject of the record has been arrested for or charged with another crime during the intervening period.

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